SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea's defense minister said his country will strengthen its nuclear weapons program in response to U.N. sanctions and American hostility, the North's official news agency reported Wednesday.
North Korea "will bolster war deterrent for self-defense in every way by employing all possible means and methods," said Kim Il Chol, minister of the People's Armed Forces, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
The communist country often refers to its nuclear weapons program as a "war deterrent for self-defense."
Kim told a gathering to mark 53 years since the armistice agreement at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, that such a move was necessary "to cope with the serious situation created on the Korean Peninsula due to the U.S. extremely hostile act and the irresponsibility of the U.N. Security Council."
North Korea fired seven missiles in early July, including one believed to be capable of reaching parts of the United States. International condemnation of the test-launches prompted the Security Council to adopt a resolution sanctioning North Korea and banning all U.N. member states from missile-related dealings with it.
Pyongyang is ready to wipe out any aggressors with "all-out do-or-die resistance and unprecedented devastating strikes," Kim said, warning that the U.N. resolution will not slow the North's defense program.
North Korea "can survive without sweets, but not without bullets," he said.
Separately, a South Korean civic group said the communist country is readying its 1.1 million strong military for conflict following the U.N. resolution.
Mobilization drills for active soldiers and civilian forces have been taking place, and artilleries in military units have been armed, the Seoul-based Good Friends group said in a statement Wednesday without identifying sources.
The civilian troops, composed of laborers and farmers, have been outfitted in military uniforms and vehicles covered with camouflage netting, the group said.
Previous reports by the same group of activities inside the isolated country have later been confirmed by other sources.
An official at South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, dismissed the report, saying "it's not the case." He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy.