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North Korea threatens retaliation over scrapping of food aid

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — North Korea on Tuesday answered world condemnation of its recent rocket test with defiance, threatening “retaliatory measures” if the United States fails to deliver food aid it canceled after the failed launch.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday condemned the rocket launch, widely suspected to be a test of its capability to deliver a nuclear warhead, and ordered the world body’s sanctions committee to impose new punitive measures on the communist-ruled country.

The Obama administration announced shortly after the launch Friday that it was scrapping a Feb. 29 agreement to send 240,000 metric tons of food to North Korea, a promise made as inducement for Pyongyang to abide by previous U.N. resolutions and suspend its nuclear programs.

The Associated Press reported from Pyongyang that the Korean Central News Agency said the nation would press on with its space ambitions because it no longer feels bound by the food aid agreement, now that Washington has abandoned it.

“We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement,” the North Korean news agency said, citing a statement from the Foreign Ministry. “The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences.”

The unspecified consequences might refer to a nuclear test. Intelligence agencies have detected preparations for an underground blast. North Korea staged bomb tests after other rocket launches in 2006 and 2009, and nuclear security analysts have predicted that Pyongyang almost certainly will conduct a third underground test in the wake of its embarrassing failure Friday. The three-stage Unha-3 rocket flew for less than two minutes and failed even to reach the first-stage separation target.

“Peace is very dear for us, but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

In a separate dispatch, the state-run news agency called the United States the “wrecker of peace and security on the Korean peninsula,” citing U.S. military presence in South Korea.

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