North Korea threatened on Sunday to bolster its nuclear deterrence against the United States as the leaders of key US allies South Korea and Japan were set for a summit meeting.
Pyongyang’s ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the North’s nuclear drive could be justified by the “US introduction of nuclear weapons into South Korea.”
“We will strengthen our nuclear deterrence further for our self-defence to cope with outright US nuclear threats and nuclear war attempts,” Rodong said.
Seoul and Washington have long denied there are US nuclear weapons on South Korean soil and insist they have no plans to invade the North.
The latest threats come as South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak is in Tokyo for talks with Prime Minister Taro Aso on North Korea and a number of other issues.
Tensions have mounted here since the North’s long-range rocket launch on April 5 and its second nuclear test on May 25, which resulted in new tougher UN Security Council sanctions on the impoverished communist state.
Pyongyang on Saturday threatened to shoot down any Japanese plane entering its air space, accusing Japan’s AWACS aircraft of spying on missile bases on its east coast.
It “will not tolerate even a bit the aerial espionage by the warmongers of the Japanese aggression forces but mercilessly shoot down any plane intruding into the territorial air of the DPRK (North Korea) even 0.001 mm,” read an air force statement carried by the North’s official news agency.
The North has often denounced US aerial espionage, but rarely Japanese.
Seoul officials believe the North will fire short-range or mid-range missiles off its east coast from June 25 to July 10, after it warned foreign ships to stay clear of a specific area during the period.
Washington has said it is prepared for Pyongyang’s possible firing of a long-range missile towards Hawaii, perhaps on July 4, US Independence Day.
As part of efforts to curb the North’s weapons programmes, a US destroyer is shadowing a suspicious North Korean cargo ship last reported heading for Myanmar.