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North Korea says can up deterrent many times over

Written by: Staff
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SEOUL, Apr 14 (Reuters) North Korea's nominal number two leader today said Pyongyang can increase its military deterrent a thousand times over to counter a hostile US policy, implying the communist state may expand its nuclear arsenal.

The comments from Kim Yong-nam, the president of North Korea's parliament, come a day after its chief nuclear envoy said Pyongyang might boost its nuclear deterrent if six-country talks on ending its atomic programmes remained deadlocked.

''The present situation of the Korean Peninsula has been driven to extremes by the US vicious hostile policy toward the DPRK, and it is the DPRK's right for self-defence to strengthen its military deterrent hundred and thousand times to cope with the grave situation,'' the North's official KCNA news agency cited Kim as saying.

DPRK is short for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Kim is considered to be second in line in the North Korean power structure behind its leader Kim Jong-il.

''If the US stupidly takes the road of a war against the DPRK, its army and people will mercilessly wipe out the aggressors,'' KCNA cited Kim as saying.

The comments come a day ahead of one of the largest celebrations on the North Korean calendar -- the birthday of its founder and eternal president Kim Il-sung.

North Korea has stayed away from the talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programmes. The last round was held in November.

The talks have hit a snag over a US crackdown on firms its suspects of aiding North Korea in illicit activities such as counterfeiting and drug trafficking.

North Korea has said it would be unthinkable for it to return to the talks while the United States is trying to topple its leaders through economic pressure.

REUTERS SI PM1805

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