North Korea declared on Tuesday that it is free to conduct missile tests despite a self-imposed moratorium, saying it is not bound by prior agreements and that outsiders have no right to criticise its actions.
"This issue concerns our autonomy. Nobody has a right to slander that right," Japan's Kyodo News agency quoted North Korean Foreign Ministry official Ri Pyong-dok as telling Japanese reporters in North Korea.
Kyodo also cited Ri as saying Pyongyang's actions are not bound by the joint declaration made at international nuclear disarmament talks last year or an earlier missile moratorium agreed to by Tokyo and Pyongyang in 2002 when their leaders met. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reaffirmed the moratorium in 2004.
Ri told the reporters his remarks represented Pyongyang's official line on the matter, but refused to comment on whether the North would push ahead with the missile test, saying it was inappropriate for a diplomat to give further information, Kyodo said.
An agreement reached at nuclear disarmament talks in September doesn't specifically address missile tests by the North, although negotiators at the Beijing talks - which included the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US - pledged to work toward peace and stability in the region.