SEOUL • North Korea's state media marked the nation's founding anniversary yesterday with calls for a nuclear arms build-up, in defiance of mounting international sanctions.
South Korea's military said it was keeping close tabs on the North amid talk that it could stage a missile launch or another nuclear test to mark the 1948 establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Sept 9 last year, and then carried out a sixth a week ago, saying it was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto a missile. In July, it tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that appeared to bring much of the mainland United States into range.
"The defence sector, in step with the party's byungjin policy (of developing the economy and nuclear weapons at the same time) must make cutting-edge juche weapons in greater quantities," the Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial, referring to the national philosophy of "juche" or self-reliance.
The mouthpiece of the North's ruling party called for more "miracle-like events" - like the two ICBM tests to deter the US, which it said was bent on "decapitating" the nation's leader Kim Jong Un.
"No matter how the US and its puppets kick up a ruckus, our republic, which has a strong military and the most powerful juche bombs and weapons, and whose territory has all turned into fortresses, and all its people armed to the teeth, will remain an eternal iron-clad citadel," it said.
In another commentary, the Rodong Sinmun said the US would continue receiving "gift packages in different shapes and sizes" as long as it sticks to, what it said was, a hostile policy against the North. Mr Kim himself has called the ICBM tests "gift packages" that the North was delivering to the US.
A South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman said there were no signs of the North preparing a missile launch or a nuclear test yesterday.
"The military is maintaining its utmost defence posture, keeping a close watch over the North. But there is nothing out of the ordinary," he told Agence France-Presse. But he warned that the North could fire ballistic missiles at any time from easily concealed mobile launchers.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified government official as saying the North could carry out a seventh nuclear test at its Punggye-ri test site at any moment. The official also said the North could choose the founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party on Oct 10 to hold another test.
Yesterday, Japanese F-15 fighter jets conducted an air exercise with US B1-B bombers in the skies above the East China Sea, said Japan's Air Self-Defence Force. Two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flying from the US Pacific island territory of Guam were joined by two Japanese F-15 jet fighters.
On Aug 31, Japanese F-15 fighter jets ran a drill with US B1-B bombers and F-35 stealth fighters in skies south of the Korean peninsula, two days after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan.
The US wants the United Nations Security Council to vote tomorrow to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea despite resistance from China and Russia.
A US-presented draft resolution calls for an oil embargo on North Korea, an assets freeze on Mr Kim, a ban on textiles and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers. Diplomatic sources said Russia and China opposed the measures, except for the ban of textiles, during a meeting of experts on Friday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS