Mon, Dec 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

North Korean army chief vows to take action against US

AP , SEOUL

North Korean state media praised the country's leader yesterday for standing up to its enemies a day after the army's chief of staff vowed to take action against US sanctions after nuclear disarmament talks ended in deadlock.

In a lengthy editorial, Rodong Sinmun newspaper lauded North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for his "iron-like pluck and grit" and for trying to build a powerful military that no enemy would dare confront, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The newspaper also said the North displayed its determination to "mercilessly punish aggressors trying to pick a fight with us" -- a possible reference to its Oct. 9 nuclear test that sent jitters across the globe.

On Saturday, army chief of staff Kim Yong-chun accused the US of demanding that North Korea unilaterally end its nuclear program while refusing to lift financial restrictions the US imposed on the communist government for its alleged money laundering and counterfeiting of US$100 bills.

The nuclear talks -- held in Beijing this week after a 13-month break due to a North Korean boycott over the US sanctions -- ended on Friday without an agreement to move ahead on the North's nuclear disarmament. Last year, the North pledged to disarm in exchange for security guarantees and aid.

Negotiators said the North Koreans refused to talk about their nuclear weapons program until the US lifts its financial restrictions.

"Sanctions and pressure will never work on [North Korea]. If the hostile forces continue escalating sanctions and pressure against [the North], it will resolutely react to them with stronger countermeasures," Kim said in a speech to thousands of top government and military officials in Pyongyang.

Kim did not elaborate on what he meant by stronger countermeasures in the speech, broadcast on North Korean Central TV.

The meeting was held on the eve of the 15th anniversary of Kim Jong-il's assumption of the command of the country's 1.1 million-strong military, the world's fifth largest.

North Korean soldiers also held a massive outdoor party on Saturday night to celebrate the anniversary, according to KCNA.

North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan said on Friday that his country -- which conducted its first nuclear weapons test in October -- would bolster its atomic arsenal in response to US pressure.

"The US is taking a tactic of both dialogue and pressure, and carrots and sticks," he told reporters in Beijing.

"We are responding with dialogue and a shield, and by a shield we are saying we will further improve our deterrent," he said.

The two sides held separate talks on those sanctions in Beijing on the sidelines of the six-nation arms talks but failed to bridge their differences.

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