PYONGYANG - North Korea has warned of retaliation after the US scrapped food aid over its rocket launch, raising fears of a new nuclear test, as China reportedly suspended a refugee deal with its wayward ally.
In a defiant statement late Tuesday, the nuclear-armed North said it was no longer bound by a bilateral agreement to halt testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles after Washington suspended much-needed food aid.
"We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement," its foreign ministry said, accusing Washington of hostile acts.
South Korean analysts said they expect the North to follow up by staging a third nuclear weapons test, or launching another long-range missile.
The North also rejected condemnation by the United Nations Security Council, including its ally China, of the failed launch last Friday.
Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said Wednesday that China has suspended the refugee repatriation deal because it was not consulted about the launch, seen by the US and its allies as a covert test of ballistic missile technology.
The paper quoted two Chinese officials as saying the long-standing policy of swiftly returning North Koreans as economic migrants — despite the punishment they face back home — had been put on hold.
The suspension reflects Beijing's displeasure with its troublesome neighbor who "did not show the necessary attention to its friend China," it quoted one unidentified official as saying.In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin declined comment on the report but called for calm.
"We hope relevant parties will exercise calm and restraint, maintain engagement and dialogue and continue to uphold the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula," Liu said.
Pyongyang insists its botched satellite launch was not a missile test and did not breach the February deal with Washington, under which it vowed to suspend uranium enrichment and nuclear and missile tests in return for food.
But the US called off plans to start shipping 240,000 tons of food, saying the North could no longer be trusted.
On Monday a Security Council presidential statement "strongly condemned" the launch. It ordered a tightening of existing sanctions and warned of new action if the isolated state stages another nuclear or long-range missile test.South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Wednesday praised China's response to ...