SEOUL- North Korea said on Tuesday it would quit international nuclear disarmament talks and restart a plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium after the United Nations chastised it for launching a long-range rocket.
The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously condemned North Korea's launch on April 5 as contravening a U.N. ban, and demanded enforcement of existing sanctions against Pyongyang.
Prickly North Korea said in a Foreign Ministry statement that the U.N. action and separate six-country nuclear talks were an infringement of its sovereignty and it will never participate in the (nuclear) talks any longer nor ... be bound to any agreement of the six-party talks.
The statement, carried by the official KCNA news agency, said North Korea would bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way, actively consider building its own light-water nuclear reactor, revive nuclear facilities and reprocess used nuclear fuel rods.
Experts said the impoverished and energy-starved North lacks the technology to make an advanced light-water reactor.
Financial markets in Seoul and Tokyo were not affected by Pyongyang's announcement, with investors seeing it as more of the saber rattling they have come to expect from the reclusive state.
North Korea began taking apart its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant more than a year ago as a part of a disarmament-for-aid deal it reached with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
The U.N. response to a launch widely seen as a disguised test of a long-range missile will have little immediate impact on the North's faltering economy and the divided international reaction could embolden leader Kim Jong-il, analysts said.
Japan and Russia urged North Korea to return to the often-stalled nuclear talks.
But China, which shares a border with North Korea and is the closest thing Pyongyang can claim as a major ally, called on all parties to pay attention to the broader picture and exercise calm and restraint. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing still hoped to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiations.
Experts said the North could have its plant that separates plutonium from spent fuel rods up and running again in as little as three months.
North Korea's statements are always a mixture of bluff and real threats, but I think the threats are more real this time, and I think they'll continue for the next few months at least, said Shi Yinhong, a regional security expert at Renmin University in Beijing.
CHINA AND NORTH KOREA
Announcements like this from North Korea are part of a familiar pattern of behavior, and as such it is not likely to be a destabilizing factor for regional economies.
Market players have come to view belligerent North Korean statements as bargaining ploys that are not to be taken at face value, said Tim Condon, an economist at ING Financial Markets in Singapore.
Chinese officials had originally called for restraint over the North Korean rocket launch. However, by subsequently joining the U.N. condemnation, Beijing has stoked uncertainty about how it intends to balance ties with Pyongyang against pressure from regional powers, which could have long-term implications.
It means China is paying much more attention to the United States and Japan, and less to North Korea and its relations with North Korea, said Shi.
The new U.N. measures may cause Beijing to curb trade in a few items but it will keep its flow of energy, grains and other materials that prop up the North's broken-down economy.
The U.S.-authored statement, agreed on Saturday by the five permanent council members and Japan, ordered a U.N. sanctions committee to begin activating financial sanctions and an arms and limited trade embargo laid down in a resolution passed two-and-a-half years ago.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has basked in patriotic glory stemming from the launch in his state's propaganda, which has helped him return to the limelight after a suspected stroke last August raised questions about his grip on power.
Kim, 67, made his first appearance last week at a major state event when he attended a meeting of a newly elected parliament. Analysts said this helped cement his legacy as he rearranged power structures in order to further tighten his iron grip over Asia's only communist dynasty.