North Korea issued another hyperbolic threat against the U.S. Thursday, vowing a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation" in the event of any U.S. attack.
The threat came as the communist dictatorship marked the anniversary of the Korean War and the U.S. Navy trailed a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons in violation of a U.N. resolution. There have also been reports that Pyongyang may fiore a missile in the direction of Hawaii on or around July 4.
State-run newspapers in Pyongyang ran lengthy editorials accusing the United States of invading the country in 1950 and of looking for an opportunity to attack again. The editorials said that justified North Korea's development of atomic bombs to defend itself.
North "will never give up its nuclear deterrent ... and will further strengthen it" as long as Washington remains hostile, Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.
In a separate commentary, the Rodong blasted a recent U.S. pledge to defend South Korea with its nuclear weapons, saying that amounted to "asking for the calamitous situation of having a fire shower of nuclear retaliation all over South Korea."
Historical evidence shows North Korea started the Korean War by invading the South, but Pyongyang blames the U.S.. The totalitarian government apparently hopes to infuse North Koreans with fear of a fresh American attack to better control the hunger-stricken population. The U.S. fought alongside the South, leading U.N. forces, during the war. The conflict ended in 1953 with a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula divided and in a state of war. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect against hostilities.
The new U.N. resolution seeks to clamp down on North Korea's trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring U.N. member states to request inspections of ships carrying suspected cargo.
North Korea has said it would consider interception of the Kang Nam, the first North Korean ship to be tracked under the resolution, an act of war. It left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago and is believed bound for Myanmar, South Korean and U.S. officials said.
The United States and its allies have not decided whether to contact and request an inspection of the ship, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday. He said he did not believe a decision would come soon.
Reports about possible missile launches from the North highlighted the tension on the Korean peninsula.
Meanwhile, North Korea has designated a no-sail zone off its east coast from June 25 to July 10 for military drills. A senior South Korean government official said the ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.