Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:24AM - 263 Views
By TOM LASSETER, McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

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BEIJING – North Korea pledged Thursday to carry out long-range rocket launches and another nuclear test, a series of moves that would defy United Nations sanctions and further ratchet up tensions in the region.

The announcement by North Korea's National Defense Commission came only two days after the U.N. Security Council condemned Pyongyang's December satellite launch, which was widely seen as a thinly disguised test of ballistic missile technology. In addition to adding more North Korean officials, businesses and committees to a travel ban and asset freeze, the United Nations had pledged Tuesday to to take significant action in the event of a further North Korean launch or nuclear test.

Pyongyang didn't appear to be swayed. In a rambling statement Thursday carried by North Korea's official news agency, the National Defense Commission said that, we do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK – the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action ... will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.

It added: Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words.

What exactly the commission, which is headed by young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meant by target against the U.S. was unclear. The nation is thought not to have the ability to build a nuclear warhead that could fit the tip of an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the United States. The higher level of nuclear test might be in reference to working toward solving that dilemma.

While it's often difficult to parse North Korea's threats from rhetorical bluster – for example, it has spoken in the past of unleashing a sea of fire on South Korea – the prospect of a nuclear test fits with a warning that Seoul issued this week.

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