June 29, 2010 08:17
North Korea on Monday announced it would have to increase its nuclear weapons capability, blaming unspecified threats by the United States' military. This comes following criticism of North Korea at two summits in Canada, where it was also announced that the transfer of full operational control of South Korean forces to Seoul's command is to be delayed.
North Korea's foreign ministry says a hostile American policy compels it to boost its nuclear capability.
A statement from the ministry, carried by the North's central news agency, says the nuclear deterrent will be raised in a new, improved manner. It says this is necessary to counter the military threat from the United States after "the recent disturbing development" on the Korean peninsula. It did not elaborate.
Park Young-ho is a research analyst at the South Korean-government funded Korea Institute for National Unification. He says Pyongyang is responding to what it believes is a hardening stance by the United States and other countries during a summit of world leaders in Canada during the past several days.
Park interprets North Korea's announcement as meaning it will weaponize more plutonium and make nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop its missiles.
On the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Toronto, U.S. and South Korean leaders agreed to delay the transfer of operational control of the South Korean military from U.S. forces to Seoul until 2015.
Three years ago, South Korea agreed to resume full control of its troops in 2012. But some in both Washington and Seoul warned it would be premature for the South to assume responsibility due to lack of training and equipment.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been rising since the sinking of a South Korean coastal warship in late March. An international investigation concluded the Cheonan was hit by a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang denies any involvement and says any moves by the United Nations to punish it for the act could lead to war.
World leaders at a G8 meeting Saturday in Canada criticized North Korea over the sinking and its nuclear program.
Concern has been growing about the political stability of the reclusive regime in the North. There is increasing speculation that ailing leader Kim Jong-il is preparing his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, to succeed him.
North Korea has made a surprise announcement to convene a ruling party members' meeting for the first time since 1966.
A news announcer on North Korean television states that the meeting will be held in early September. The announcement says elections will take place for the party's top body to respond to "new needs" raised for the party and development. There was no mention of the top leader's heir apparent.
Analysts believe the meeting will pave the way for elevating Kim's son into a post that makes it clear he is to succeed his father.
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