NKorea threatens to bolster its nuclear arsenal*
By HYUNG-JIN KIM
SEOUL, South Korea—North Korea threatened Wednesday to bolster its nuclear arsenal in response to annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that Pyongyang calls a rehearsal for invasion.
The North's warning came on the second day of computer-simulated war games that the United States and South Korea call Ulchi Freedom Guardian. The allies say the 11-day drills are purely defensive, but North Korea says the training is extremely provocative and undermines recent attempts to promote peace on the Korean peninsula.
Last month, diplomats from the United States and the two Koreas held tentative talks on restarting long-dormant negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and other concessions.
"The U.S. is staging exercises for a war of aggression against its dialogue partner, while putting up a signboard of dialogue," an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.
"It is self-evident that (North Korea) should put spurs to bolstering its nuclear deterrent for self-defense both in quality and quantity to cope with this situation," he said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The statement didn't elaborate on how the North would strengthen its nuclear arsenal. The country has issued similar threats in the past when the United States and South Korea have conducted military drills.
North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for at least a half-dozen weapons and revealed last November that it has a uranium enrichment facility that could give it another way to make atomic bombs.
Tension on the Korean peninsula spiked last year after the North's alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship and its deadly bombardment of a South Korean border island. A total of 50 South Koreans died.
The Korean peninsula remains technically in a state of war after the 1950s Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.