North Korea says sure of winning any nuclear war with U.S.
[Reuters - 17 Feb]: SEOUL - North Korea said on Monday that victory would be certain for the communist state in any nuclear war with the United States thanks to Pyongyang's "army-first" political system.
"Victory in a nuclear conflict will be ours and the red flag of army-first politics will flutter ever more vigorously," state radio said, reported by South Korea's Yonhap news agency. "Our victory is certain and the future ever more radiant," it said, touting the dominance of the army in the world's most heavily militarized society.
The million-strong Korean People's Army is the world's fifth-largest, with nearly one in 20 North Koreans in uniform and spending on defense consuming as much as a quarter of the impoverished state's annual budget.
War warnings and claims that the United States is poised to attack North Korea have been almost daily fare in Pyongyang official media, which have ratcheted up the rhetoric since a nuclear crisis flared last year. The standoff over North Korea's suspected nuclear program has been simmering since October, when Washington said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a program to enrich uranium in violation of major international treaty commitments.
Since then, North Korea has expelled UN nuclear inspectors and withdrawn from the treaty which aims to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and said it was ready to restart a mothballed reactor capable of producing plutonium for bombs. Pyongyang has insisted that it only intends to produce electricity for its decrepit economy and that the nuclear row is a bilateral dispute with Washington that can only be solved through two-way talks leading to a non-aggression treaty.
But a vote on February 12 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, referring the nuclear issue to the Security Council was seen as a rebuff to North Korea's insistence on a bilateral solution.
The Security Council has the power to impose economic sanctions -- a step North Korea has said would amount to a declaration of war. But IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei has said there was no intention to push for sanctions immediately. North Korea's allies Russia and China and neighbors including South Korea have said it was too early to pursue sanctions.
Last week, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet reiterated U.S. intelligence estimates that North Korea has already extracted enough plutonium for one to nuclear bombs. Tenet said North Korea could recover enough plutonium for several additional weapons if it were to reprocess spent fuel from the reactor that had been frozen in 1994 under an agreement with the United States which Pyongyang abrogated in October.
The United States keeps 37,000 troops in South Korea under a 50-year-old security alliance formed to deter a repeat of the North Korean invasion of the south that sparked the 1950-53 Korean War.