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North Korea

North Korea hits back over UN rocket sanctions

North Korea has condemned a fresh round of UN sanctions following its successful launch of a rocket into space. Pyongyang has warned that it will strengthen nuclear and military defenses, complaining of hypocrisy.

In a defiant statement from the Foreign Ministry, Pyongyang on Wednesday hit out at the sanctions and announced that North Korea would conduct another nuclear test in response.

The ministry denounced perceived "double standards" that allowed other countries to experiment with satellite launches while denying North Korea the same opportunity.

"We flatly reject and condemn the UN Security Council's extremely unfair resolution that attempts to violate our sovereign rights," read a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"We will take physical actions aimed at expanding and strengthening our self-defensive military forces, including nuclear deterrence."

"Our scientists and engineers ... will develop more and launch more powerful rockets," the ministry promised.

Launch viewed with pride

The launch of a long-range rocket into space in December represented something of a coup for the country's young leader, Kim Jong Un.

The ministry's response came within hours of the UN Security Council in New York adopting a resolution that condemned the rocket launch as a violation of an existing ban against nuclear and missile activity. That restriction was imposed after North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

In the latest document, the Council threatened "significant action" if Pyongyang were to stage a third nuclear test. It also added North Korea's space agency, a bank, four trading companies and four individuals to a list of entities subject to travel restrictions and an assets freeze.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice warned on Tuesday that North Korea would pay "an increasingly steep price" if it responded to the resolution with confrontation.

North Korea's response also appeared to reject any resumption of talks about its nuclear program. The talks - between North and South Korea as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US - have been held on an intermittent basis since 2003.

rc/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters)