, SEOUL, Apr 14 – North Korea announced it would quit six-nation nuclear disarmament talks and restart its atomic weapons programme in protest at the UN’s condemnation of its rocket launch.
The communist nation said Security Council discussion of the launch, which the North insists sent a satellite into orbit, was "an unbearable insult" to its people.
Analysts described the Pyongyang statement as unusually strong, and China, the North’s closest ally, called for all sides involved in the talks to show restraint.
"There is no need for the six-party talks any more," said a statement from Pyongyang’s foreign ministry carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
"We will never again take part in such talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks."
North Korea "will strengthen its nuclear deterrent for its defence by all means," it added.
"We will take steps to restore disabled nuclear facilities… and reprocess used fuel rods that came from experimental nuclear reactors."
The statement came hours after the UN Security Council unanimously approved a statement condemning the April 5 rocket launch, which it said contravened a resolution passed after the North’s 2006 missile and nuclear tests.
It agreed to tighten sanctions, which were mandated under Resolution 1718 but never enforced amid hopes of progress on denuclearisation.
However China and Russia successfully resisted calls for a new resolution, saying they did not want to harm prospects for resuming the disarmament talks which group them with the two Koreas, Japan and the United States.
China, which hosts the talks, urged calm.
"We hope relevant parties can… show calmness and restraint so as to work together to safeguard the process of the six-party talks," a foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters.
Russia’s foreign ministry went further, expressing "regret" at the North’s announcement, while Japan said it "strongly urges" Pyongyang to return to the negotiations.
There was no immediate reaction from the United States.
Pyongyang had threatened to quit the talks, which started in 2003, should the Security Council criticise its rocket launch.
The hard-line regime has hailed what it says was the "historic" launch of a communications satellite, but the United States and its allies say that it has not been detected in orbit and the North’s real aim was to test a long-range missile.
In its statement, the North said it would consider building its own light water nuclear reactors to supply electrical power, and blasted what it called double standards.
"According to the US logic, Japan may launch a satellite because Japan is its ally but we must not do the same because we have a different system and we are not subservient to the US," the Korean-language statement said.
"The UN Security Council simply yielded to the US robber-like logic."
Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said Pyongyang’s response "raises the possibility of military provocations by North Korea."
"North Korea is ratcheting up the stakes. Its brinkmanship, of course, is designed to win maximum concessions from the US and international community," he told AFP.
Professor Yang Moo-Jin, of the University of North Korean Studies, said it was one of the strongest statements he could remember from Pyongyang.
"The statement says the North is now moving to actions," he said.
"It’s crucial for the US, its allies and China to react wisely in order to control the situation."
Pyongyang had been disabling plants at Yongbyon that produced weapons-grade plutonium as part of a February 2007 six-nation deal.
A Seoul official involved in the talks said North Korea has completed eight of 11 disablement steps and was on the ninth, which involves withdrawing spent fuel rods from the reactor and placing them in a cooling pond.
"It’s hard to say how long it would take to put everything back and start reprocessing the spent fuel rods to get plutonium," he told AFP under cover of anonymity.