North Korea strikes tough pose over building a nuclear arsenal

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A TOP North Korean decision-making body issued a pointed warning yesterday, saying that nuclear weapons are “the nation’s life” and will not be traded even for “billions of dollars”.

The comments came in a statement after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presided over the plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. The meeting, which set a “new strategic line” calling for building both a stronger economy and nuclear arsenal, comes amid a series of threats from Pyongyang, including a vow to launch nuclear strikes on the United States and a warning that the Korean peninsula was in a “state of war”.

Pyongyang is angry over annual US-South Korean military drills and a new round of UN sanctions that followed its February 12 nuclear test, the country’s third. Analysts see a full-scale North Korean attack as unlikely and say the threats are more likely efforts to provoke softer policies toward Pyongyang from a new government in Seoul, to win diplomatic talks with Washington that could get the North more aid, and to solidify the young North Korean leader’s image at home.

North Korea has called the US nuclear arsenal a threat to its existence since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically at war. Pyongyang justifies its own nuclear pursuit in large part on that perceived US threat.

The plenary statement also called for strengthening the moribund economy, which Kim has put an emphasis on in his public statements since taking power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. The United Nations says two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people face regular food shortages.

The statement called for diversified foreign trade and investment, and a focus on agriculture, light industry and a “self-reliant nuclear power industry,” including a light water reactor.

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