North Korea says main nuclear complex operational; warns U.S.
North Korea said on Tuesday its main nuclear complex was operating and it was working to improve the "quality and quantity" of weapons which it could use against the United States at "any time."
The comments on North Korea's official news agency came after its space agency said late Monday it was readying a new satellite for launch, indicating it may fire an upgraded long-range ballistic missile timed around the 70th anniversary of its ruling party on Oct. 10.
Any such launch would violate international sanctions although the North insists it would be part of a space program for peaceful purposes.
The United States, which has 28,000 military personnel in South Korea, called on North Korea to "refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions."
"It should focus instead on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a regular news briefing, referring to past North Korean pledges to denuclearize.
Asked if another launch could trigger more sanctions, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, told reporters "it would be a mistake for North Korea to...embark on the kind of threatening behavior and provocation that led to international sanctions in the first place."
Russel said North Korea should "unclench its fist" and the only path open to it was through international negotiations to ensure denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.