(Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its “sworn enemy”.
The announcement by the country’s top military body came a day after the U.N. Security Council agreed to a U.S.-backed resolution to censure and sanction North Korea for a rocket launch in December that breached U.N. rules.
North Korea has rejected proposals to restart the talks aimed at reining in its nuclear capacity. The United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas are the six parties involved.
“After all these years and numerous rounds of six-party talks we can see that China’s influence over North Korea is actually very limited. All China can do is try to persuade them not to carry out their threats,” said Cai Jian, an expert on Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai.
A South Korean military official said the concern now is that Pyongyang could undertake a third nuclear test using highly enriched uranium for the first time, opening a second path to a bomb.
North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test using plutonium produced a puny yield equivalent to one kiloton of TNT – compared with 13-18 kilotons for the Hiroshima bomb – and U.S. intelligence estimates put the 2009 test’s yield at roughly two kilotons
North Korea is estimated to have enough fissile material for about a dozen plutonium warheads, although estimates vary, and intelligence reports suggest that it has been enriching uranium to supplement that stock and give it a second path to the bomb.
According to estimates from the Institute for Science and International Security from late 2012, North Korea could have enough weapons grade uranium for 21-32 nuclear weapons by 2016 if it used one centrifuge at its Yongbyon nuclear plant to enrich uranium to weapons grade.
North Korea gave no time-frame for the coming test and often employs harsh rhetoric in response to U.N. and U.S. actions that it sees as hostile.
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