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North Korea threatens US over response to rocket launches

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Jan. 30, 2013: South Korea's rocket lifts off from its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Korea.AP

North Korea is threatening to retaliate for what it calls U.S. double standards over recent rocket launches by Pyongyang and U.S. ally Seoul.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman did not elaborate on what that might entail in his comments Saturday to the official Korean Central News Agency. But Pyongyang has recently threatened to conduct its third nuclear test in response to what it calls U.S. hostility.

Washington says Seoul's rocket launch Wednesday had no military intent while Pyongyang's in December was a test of banned ballistic missile technology.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang for its launch. Pyongyang says it should be allowed to launch satellites for peaceful purposes.

Both Koreas say their satellites are working properly. U.S. experts say Pyongyang's satellite is apparently malfunctioning.

Pyongyang's state television made no mention of the South Korean launch Wednesday, but about an hour after liftoff it showed archive footage of North Koreans cheering the North's three-stage rocket from last month. Images from the launch frequently appear in North Korean propaganda.

The satellite launched by Seoul is designed to analyze weather data, measure radiation in space, gauge distances on earth and test how effectively South Korean-made devices installed on the satellite operate in space. South Korean officials said it will help them develop more sophisticated satellites in the future.

South Korea did need outside help to launch the satellite: The rocket's first stage was designed and built by Russian experts. North Korea built its rocket almost entirely on its own, South Korean military experts said earlier this month after analyzing debris retrieved from the Yellow Sea in December.

Kim Seung-jo, South Korea's chief space official, told reporters that his country should be able to independently produce a rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit by as early as 2018.

Spending on science and technology is expected to increase under South Korea's incoming President Park Geun-hye, who takes office next month. She pledged during her campaign to increase such spending to 5 percent of South Korea's GDP by the end of her five-year term.