SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea vowed Tuesday to restore its nuclear facilities and boycott international talks on its atomic weapons program to protest the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of the country's rocket launch.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it "resolutely rejects the unjust action" by the United Nations, which it said "wantonly" infringes upon the country's sovereignty and "seriously" hurt the dignity of its people.
The statement was North Korea's first reaction to the Security Council's unanimous censure Monday of the April 5 launch, which Pyongyang says sent a satellite into space but the United States and others say tested long-range missile technology.
Analysts including Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, said that Pyongyang appeared to be using its threats as a negotiating tool and that after some time had passed talks were likely to resume.
The North's statement said the country will not be bound by any agreement signed under the six-party talks — a multilateral effort aimed at getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs. The talks include negotiators from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
North Korea also said it will restore nuclear facilities it has been disabling and resume operating them, apparently referring to its five-megawatt plutonium-producing reactor and other facilities at the Yongbyon complex north of Pyongyang.
North Korea also said it will reprocess spent fuel rods, also apparently referring to an activity at Yongbyon, and "actively consider" building a light-water nuclear reactor.
North Korea famously blew up the cooling tower at Yongbyon in June of last year to symbolize its commitment to denuclearization under a six-party agreement.
The isolated communist nation, which carried out an underground nuclear test in 2006, is believed to have enough plutonium to produce at least about half a dozen atomic bombs.
The statement also said North Korea "will never participate in the talks any longer" because other members of the forum "publicly denied" the spirit of the negotiations — which it said were respect of mutual equality and sovereignty — in the name of the U.N. Security Council.
The Security Council's statement demanded an end to the North's rocket launches and said it will expand sanctions against the reclusive communist nation.
Koh, the analyst, said Pyongyang would watch how the U.S. reacts, saying the country now has "one more negotiating card" to play with Washington.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University, said North Korea appeared "upset" now, but will find it difficult to really boycott the talks because that will further isolate the country.
The six-party talks began in 2003, but they have been stalled for months over how to verify the country's accounting of its past nuclear activities.
Under a 2007 six-party deal, North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear complex — a step toward its ultimate dismantlement — in return for 1 million tons of fuel oil and other concessions.
North Korea had threatened last month that any criticism by the U.N. Security Council over the launch would result in the end of the talks.
"We have no choice but to further strengthen our nuclear deterrent to cope with additional military threats by hostile forces," the statement said, employing the common North Korean euphemism "deterrent" for nuclear weapons. It also hinted that Pyongyang would conduct more satellite tests, saying it will "continue to exercise its sovereign rights to use space."
China, the host of the six-party talks, called for calm on all sides.
"We hope the relevant parties will proceed from the overall interest, exercise calmness and restraint," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a press conference in Beijing.
Russia's Foreign Ministry of Russia said if true, North Korea's decision "prompts regret." It called on Pyongyang to consider "the consequences of such a step."
South Korea's Foreign Ministry earlier issued a statement welcoming the U.N. action and urging North Korea to respond to international calls for the peaceful, diplomatic resolution of nuclear tension.
The statement by the Security Council said it "condemns" the April 5 "launch" — without specifying whether it was a missile or a satellite — and demanded that North Korea "not conduct further launches."
The statement, agreed on by all 15 members and read at a formal meeting of the United Nations' most powerful body, said the launch violated a council resolution adopted after the North conducted a nuclear test explosion in 2006 that banned any missile tests by the country.
The statement was a weaker response than a U.N. resolution, which had been sought by Japan and the United States but was opposed by China and Russia. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice insisted the statement is legally binding, just like a resolution — a view backed by Russia — but other diplomats and officials disagreed.
In its statement, the Security Council expressed support for the six-party talks and "calls for their early resumption." It also expressed the council's desire "for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation" and for efforts to achieve "the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
President Barack Obama called the statement a "clear and united message" that North Korea's action was unlawful and would result in real consequences, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a release.
The statement also demands that Pyongyang must fully implement the 2006 resolution, which ordered the North to suspend all ballistic missile activities and "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."
The council's statement also said it "agrees" to expand sanctions under the 2006 resolution, which ordered a financial freeze on assets belonging to companies and groups tied to North Korean programs for nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction and banned the sale of specific goods used in those programs.
Since its adoption, no North Korean companies or organizations have been put on the list, diplomats said.
Jiang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said however, that China does not support "fresh sanctions against" North Korea.