North Korea Vows To Strengthen Defenses Amid Speculations Of New Nuclear Test

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Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jon-un

North Korea issued a memorandum Monday vowing to bolster its defenses as a measure to “actively contribute to peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and in the rest of Asia,” alleging that Washington’s “aggressive” Asia-Pacific strategy led to tensions in the region.

The statement, issued by Pyongyang’s foreign ministry and carried by the state media, accused the U.S. of defiance against the North Korean leadership while calling for the dissolution of the U.S.-led U.N. Command (UNC) which oversees an armistice signed at the close of the Korean War in 1953.

Accusing Washington of trying to turn the UNC into a NATO-like regional military bloc, Pyongyang said: “Behind the recent attempts of the U.S. to revive the functions of the ‘U.N. Command’ lie its strategic self-interests to make South Korea a forward base for the domination of the Asia-Pacific region and hold fast to it as a cannon fodder for an aggressive war under the changed situation.”

The statement did not furnish details of what action North Korea was planning to take to defend its interests.

The UNC was set up by a U.N. Security Council Resolution in Tokyo in July, 1953, to provide assistance to South Korea in driving away North Korean forces, which invaded the South in June, 1950.

The command structure has remained in place after the ceasefire and has been augmented by the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.

The memorandum came amid reports that North Korea had informed Beijing that it was planning to conduct a nuclear test this week.

“We’ve heard a North Korean official in Beijing told the Chinese side that the North planned to carry out a nuclear test between January 13-20,” the Joongang Ilbo daily quoted an unidentified Seoul official as saying.

“We’re now stepping up surveillance over the Punggye-ri nuclear test site,” the official said referring to the North’s nuclear test site.

As the U.N. Security Council debates imposing sanctions on Pyongyang after it launched a three-stage rocket last month, speculation has been rife that North Korea was inching towards a third nuclear test, as the nation’s previous nuclear tests were carried out within months of long-range rocket launches.

The council had warned North Korea — already subject to international sanctions for its 2006 and 2009 attempts to test a nuclear device — of possible measures in response to the December launch as countries, including South Korea and Japan, have been pressing for stronger sanctions against Pyongyang.

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