N. Korea Warns of ‘Dark Clouds of Nuclear War’ on Peninsula

SEOUL ~ North Korea warned on Thursday that “dark clouds of nuclear war” were gathering over the peninsula and vowed to strengthen its atomic arsenal as it marked the anniversary of the 1950-1953 conflict.

Rodong Sinmun, newspaper of the ruling communist party, accused the United States and its ally South Korea of trying to provoke a new war with a bolstered US nuclear “umbrella” over the South.

“A touch-and-go situation has been created on the Korean peninsula… with dark clouds of a nuclear war gathering as the hours tick by,” it said in a lengthy commentary marking the anniversary.

The paper said a new war could break out any time and the North would continue to strengthen its nuclear arsenal.

“As long as the US hostile policy continues, we will never give up our nuclear deterrent and even strengthen it,” Rodong said.

The conflict began with a North Korean invasion on June 25, 1950. It ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the communist North and capitalist South still technically at war.

Cross-border relations have soured since a conservative government took office in Seoul last year with a firmer policy towards the North.

And international tensions have grown since Pyongyang’s long-range rocket launch in early April and its nuclear test in late May.

The North has also fired short-range missiles, renounced the truce in force on the peninsula and repeatedly warned of possible war.

At a US-South Korean summit in Washington last week, Washington reaffirmed its commitment to provide the South with a nuclear umbrella.

Officials believe the North will fire short-range or mid-range missiles off its east coast in the next fortnight, after warning foreign ships to stay clear of a specific area during the period.

Washington has also said it is prepared for the North’s possible firing of a long-range missile towards Hawaii, perhaps on or around the July 4 US Independence Day.

The North reacted defiantly to the UN Security Council’s decision on June 12 to impose new sanctions, which tighten a ban on arms shipments among other measures.

It vowed on June 13 to build more nuclear bombs from its plutonium resources and to start a separate atomic weapons programme based on enriched uranium.

As part of efforts to curb the North’s weapons programmes, a US destroyer is shadowing a suspicious North Korean cargo ship apparently heading for Myanmar.

The US Defence Department said the Kang Nam 1 was still being monitored but declined to say where it was, or if or when the US Navy might ask to search it.

In the 1950-53 conflict the US headed a United Nations force which fought for the South against North Korean and Chinese troops.

An exhibition was held in the border town of Kaesong to display “hundreds of historical and cultural artefacts” destroyed by the Americans during the war, official Radio Pyongyang reported Thursday.

“Attendants hardened their will for revenge after seeing such evidence,” it said.

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