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N.Korea says will never give up N-arms
December 31, 2017
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SEOUL: North Korea said on Saturday that it will never give up its nuclear weapons as long as the United States and its allies continue their “blackmail and war drills” at its doorstep.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency took the oft-repeated stance as it reviewed the country’s major nuclear weapons and missile tests this year.

North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date in September and launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles into the sea in July and November, indicating that it is closer than ever to gaining a nuclear arsenal that could viably target the mainland United States.

The aggressive tests have led to more international sanctions and pressure on North Korea amid concerns that the window for stopping or rolling back its nuclear programme is closing rapidly.

The US and South Korea have maintained that they won’t negotiate with the North unless it is willing to discuss curbing its nuclear weapons and missile programme.

In its report on Saturday, KCNA said North Korea had taken steps for “bolstering the capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive attacks with nuclear force” in the face of a continued “nuclear threat and blackmail and war drills” by the United States and its “vassal forces.”

The North often lashes out at the annual military drills between the United States and South Korea, which the allies describe as defensive in nature.

KCNA accused President Donald Trump of employing unprecedented hostile policies against North Korea and threatening it with talks of pre-emptive strikes. It described North Korea as an “undeniable new strategic state and nuclear power.”

“Do not expect any change in its policy. Its entity as an invincible power can neither be undermined nor be stamped out,” KCNA said.

“The DPRK, as a responsible nuclear weapons state, will lead the trend of history to the only road of independence,” it added, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Meanwhile, the crew of a Hong Kong-registered ship have been detained for questioning in South Korea since their tanker was impounded in November for transferring oil to a North Korean vessel and breaching UN sanctions, customs officials said on Saturday.

The Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company, was impounded by South Korean customs authorities at the port of Yeosu on Nov.24 following an inspection.

“Since then, inspectors have been coming on board and questioning the crew,” a Korea Customs Service official said.

The Lighthouse Winmore has 25 crew members including 23 mainland Chinese citizens and two Myanmar nationals, another customs official at Yeosu said.

The tanker, chartered by Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group Corp., previously visited Yeosu on Oct.11 and loaded up on some 14,000 tonnes of Japanese refined oil before heading towards its purported destination in Taiwan.

Instead of going to Taiwan, however, the vessel transferred 600 tonnes of oil to the North’s Sam Jong 2 in international waters off China before returning to Yeosu, the customs service officials said.

Earlier a foreign ministry official in Seoul had said the ship had been seized briefly by customs authorities who inspected it.

Results of the investigation will be reported to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee, foreign ministry officials said.

Agenceis

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