North Korea yesterday warned of more nuclear tests if the US keeps pressuring it as South Korea urged the UN Security Council to send a "clear and firm" message to the communist state.
"If the US continues to harass and put pressure on us, we will regard this as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical countermeasures," said a foreign ministry statement carried by the official (North) Korean Central News Agency.
The ministry said its statement was in response to US attempts to secure tough sanctions at the UN Security Council, set to meet later yesterday to condemn the North over its Monday test which shocked the world.
It did not elaborate on the physical measures, but the North's No. 2 leader separately threatened "physical steps" if US pressure continues.
"The issue of future nuclear tests is linked to US policy toward our country," Kim Yong-nam, head of the North's Supreme People's Assembly, told Japan's Kyodo news agency.
"If the United States continues to take a hostile attitude and apply pressure on us in various forms, we will have no choice but to take physical steps to deal with that," he said.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun promised a stern but calm response to the test but has not announced detailed plans. South Korea and the US say they do not plan a military response.
"We hope the countries concerned through close consultations will deliver a clear and firm message to North Korea in a unified voice," Vice Foreign Minister Lee Kyu-hyung said of the UN debate.
Prime Minister Han Myeong-Sook told parliament South Korea will observe likely UN Security Council economic sanctions.
While Seoul's diplomatic language has been measured, anger and tension have risen over what many see as North Korea's betrayal.
A newspaper poll found 78 percent of respondents believed South Korea should revise its policy of engagement, and 65 percent said it should develop nuclear weapons, according to the JoongAng newspaper.
Groups of protesters have held nightly candlelight vigils.
"We worry about a war because the regime is so thoughtless," said one demonstrator, librarian Lee Young-Sook. "The South Korean people are being held hostage."
Roh has admitted the engagement approach is under threat. The South has spent 1.3 trillion won (US$1.37 billion) since 2003 on its "sunshine" policy.
The main opposition Grand National Party has demanded industrial and tourism projects with the North be shut down.
Former president Kim Dae-jung, defended the reconciliation approach and accused the US administration of failures that led to Pyongyang's nuclear test.
"The nuclear test by the North proved that the US policy toward the North had been ill-conceived," Kim said.
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