North Korea on Tuesday said it was no longer bound by an agreement it had reached with the United States in February to freeze its nuclear and missile program in exchange for food aid, pointing out that Washington had failed to honor its commitments made under the deal.
"As the US violated the February 29 DPRK-US agreement through its undisguised hostile acts, we will no longer be bound to it. We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement." the North's Foreign Ministry said in a strongly-worded statement.
"The US will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences. Peace is very dear for us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us," said the statement, which was carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
"We resolutely and totally reject the unreasonable behavior of the UNSC to violate (our) legitimate right to launch satellites," the statement added, apparently referring to a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) statement issued on Monday condemning a recent North Korean rocket launch.
Last month, North Korea had announced a moratorium on its nuclear tests, uranium enrichment, and long-range missile testing in exchange for food aid, following a third round of talks with the United States in Beijing in February.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang launched what it said was a rocket-mounted satellite into space last Friday, ignoring appeals from the international community to refrain from making such provocative actions. The rocket exploded soon after lift-off and fell into the sea near the Korean peninsula.
The U.S. has since suspended delivery of its planned food aid to North Korea, warning that the botched rocket launch was in direct violation of UNSC resolutions that prohibit North Korea from conducting any launches that use ballistic missile technology.
The failure of the rocket launch, which was carried out to mark the birth centenary of the country's founder Kim Il Sung, is seen as a major setback for North Korea. Pyongyang had boasted earlier that the launch would "offer an important occasion of putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage." However, the United States and its allies considered the satellite launch as a disguised attempt for testing a long-range missile.
The 15-member UNSC condemned the rocket launch, noting that the North's action was in direct violation of previous U.N. resolutions. The Council also ordered tightening of U.N. sanctions already imposed on North Korea over its disputed nuclear and missile programs in 2006 and 2009, and warned of further action if Pyongyang conducted another launch or a new nuclear test.
The UNSC warning came as South Korean media reports citing intelligence officials suggested that North Korea was preparing for a third nuclear test. New satellite images reportedly showed piles of earth and sand at the entrance of a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site, where two nuclear tests were previously conducted in 2006 and 2009. indicating that excavation of a new tunnel at the site is in its final stages.
North Korea had agreed in 2005 to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for aid, but pulled out of the Six-nation talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, on its disputed nuclear and missile programs in April 2009 after the UNSC condemned it for launching a rocket and imposed sanctions on several of its firms.
Soon after walking out of the talks, North Korea expelled U.S. nuclear experts and IAEA inspectors monitoring its Yongbyon nuclear complex, conducted its second nuclear test in May 2009 and test-firing of several ballistic missiles. The UNSC responded to the actions by slamming tougher sanctions on the reclusive country.
by RTT Staff Writer
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