North Korea Threatens to End Missile Moratorium

North Korea on Saturday repeated its threat to resume missile test-launches if Japan doesn't atone for abuses committed during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Since 1999, North Korea has been under a self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile test flights. At its first summit with Japan on Sept. 17, North Korea said it would extend the moratorium until after 2003.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that the communist state has no reason to stick to that promise because Japan is not honoring its summit agreements.

The North Korean people and military "strongly assert that it is necessary to reconsider a moratorium on the missile test-fire," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, who was not identified by name.

North Korea made a similar threat earlier this month.

After the September summit, North Korea allowed five Japanese kidnapped to North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to return to their homeland Oct. 15 for what was expected to be a two-week visit. The visit has stretched into a month, straining relations between the countries.

KCNA accused Japan of breaking faith with North Korea by seeking to have the abductees remain while "refusing to disclose its unprecedented state-sponsored crimes committed against the Korean people in the past."

North Korea demands that Tokyo apologize and compensate for its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 until its World War II defeat in 1945.

Japan is particularly concerned by North Korea's development of long-range missiles, which could strike virtually any point in Japan.

North Korea says it is developing long-range missiles to defend itself from U.S. military threats.