N. Korea open about desire to find means to attack U.S.

  • Article by: CHOE SANG-HUN
  • New York Times
  • February 14, 2013 - 9:06 PM


SEOUL - South Korea flexed its military muscle Thursday by staging large military drills and disclosing a new cruise missile capable of hitting any target in North Korea.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang became increasingly candid about its intentions to build intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads capable of hitting the United States.

"We no longer hide but publicly declare: If the imperialists have nuclear weapons, we must have them, and if they have intercontinental ballistic missiles, we must have them, too," the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece for the North's leadership, said in a commentary published Thursday.

"Imperialist" is the word that North Korea uses to refer to the United States.

Washington and its allies have condemned North Korea's launching of a satellite in December and its underground nuclear test Tuesday as a cover for developing nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles capable of reaching North America. But only recently did the North begin publicly indicating that it intended to build such missiles.

On Jan. 24, it said that Washington's hostilities, which it said were behind U.N. sanctions against the country, were forcing it to redirect its rocket and nuclear programs to "target against the U.S."

Although blustering is a common propaganda trope for North Korea, its increasingly public bellicosity comes amid growing concerns among the governments in the region that Pyongyang was moving closer to building workable long-range nuclear missiles. If unchecked, U.S. officials feared, the North's drive would embolden Iran to pursue its own nuclear ambitions.

"It's important for the world to have credibility with respect to our nonproliferation efforts," Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday in urging other nations to make a "swift, clear, strong and credible response" to the North's third nuclear test.

South Korea's reaction has been swift. On Thursday, its political parties passed nearly unanimously a parliamentary resolution condemning the North's nuclear test. Its navy deployed destroyers and submarines off its east coast to test their combat readiness.

South Korea started a similar naval drill off the western coast Wednesday and planned Friday to kick off live-fire drills involving rockets and artillery near the land border with North Korea. Meanwhile, the U.S. military, which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, was staging an air drill mobilizing combat aircraft of the two allies.

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