US rules out S Korea troop build-up

Pyongyang threatens to respond to any new UN sanctions following a nuclear test.

     The North Korean leadership has ignored
    international criticism of its nuclear test [AFP]

    The alert level is the highest since North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006.

    General George Casey, the US army's most senior officer, said on Thursday that the US could fight a conventional war against North Korea's million-strong military and could be deployed rapidly if necessary, despite already being engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The United States has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea.

    'Self-defence measures'

    North Korea conducted its second nuclear test on Monday and followed it up with a series of short-range missile launches, all in violation of a UN resolution.

    In depth

     North Korea's nervous neighbours
    N Korea's nuclear trump card
     A state of war
     Timeline: N Korea's bomb
     Obama condemns 'reckless' N Korea
     N Korea nuclear test angers China
     Seoul joins US anti-WMD drive
     Markets rattled by N Korea test
     World reaction: N Korea bomb test

    Double standards on nuclear weapons
     N Korea test raises regional tensions
     US military in South Korea 'pushing' the North
     South Korea's nuclear fears
     China's troublesome ally
     N Korea test sparks alarm
     UN 'should expel N Korea'
     N Korea's 'nuclear gamble'
     Riz Khan: Diplomatic fallout

    There were also reports that it had restarted its Yongbyon nuclear plant and the North threatened "merciless punishment" against any attempt by US-led forces to intercept its vessels off the Korean peninsula's west coast.

    Pyongyang on Friday vowed to respond if the UN Security Council imposes fresh sanctions following the tests.

    "If the UN Security Council provokes us, our additional self-defence measures will be inevitable," North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.
    "Any hostile acts by the UN Security Council (UNSC) will be tantamount to the demolition of the armistice," it said in a reference to the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953.

    The UN Security Council is still to respond with any punitive action, but appeared on Thursday to be moving closer to passing a resolution to condemn the nuclear test.

    The council circulated a draft resolution that condemns the test and urges member states to enforce previously approved sanctions against Pyongyang, but stops short of calling for new sanctions.

    Envoys from Japan and South Korea met their counterparts from the five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - in closed-door talks on Thursday to discuss the draft that would condemn the test "in the strongest terms".

    But diplomats revealed little detail when they emerged, saying they needed more time.

    'Complicated discussion'

    Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador, said there was wide agreement on what a new resolution should include, but cautioned that getting agreement would take time.

    John Sawers, the British ambassador, echoed that view, telling reporters after the meeting that "we need some time" as "this is quite a complicated discussion".

    There was no word on whether China, seen as North Korea's ally, would back the resolution.

    Yukio Takasu, the ambassador for Japan which is drafting the text together with the US, would only say that "China understands the seriousness of the situation".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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