- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea accused the U.S. of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid, following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry also rejected the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of Friday’s launch of a long-range rocket as “unreasonable” and reasserted the secretive communist nation’s right to develop a civilian space program.

North Korea fired a three-stage rocket Friday over the Yellow Sea in defiance of international warnings. The United States and other nations said the test would be seen as a violation of bans against nuclear and missile activity.

North Korean officials called the launch a peaceful bid to send an observation satellite into space, timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary Sunday of the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung. The launch was a failure, with the rocket splintering into pieces less than two minutes after takeoff.

Condemnation was swift, with the United States and other nations calling the launch a covert test of rocket technology that could be used to fire a long-range missile fitted with a nuclear warhead.

Washington immediately halted a plan brokered in February to provide North Korea with much-needed food aid in exchange for a suspension of its nuclear and missile programs.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council, including North Korea ally China, condemned the rocket launch as a violation of resolutions prohibiting North Korea from ballistic missile and nuclear activity.

The Security Council directed its sanctions committee to strengthen penalties against the country.

Responding to the condemnation, North Korea accused the United States late Tuesday of leading a campaign to deny its right to develop its defense and civilian space programs.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry vowed to press ahead with its space ambitions. The ministry warned it would no longer adhere to the February agreement with the United States.

“We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“The U.S. 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,” the statement added, without specifying what countermeasures North Korea might take.

North Korea also faced U.N. Security Council condemnation after launching a long-range rocket in 2009. It protested by walking away from nuclear disarmament negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea the United States.

Weeks later, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test and revealed it had a uranium enrichment program that could give scientists a second source for building atomic weapons.



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