North Korea fired another short-range missile today and threatened fresh steps to defend itself if world powers impose sanctions for its nuclear test, as tensions persisted on the Korean peninsula. With US and South Korean troops on high alert at the border, Chinese fishing boats were reported to be leaving the area in the Yellow Sea that was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 between the two Koreas.
The communist North, which has warned it could launch an attack on the South, vowed to respond to any fresh sanctions imposed by the United Nations. "If the UN Security Council (UNSC) provokes us, our additional self-defence measures will be inevitable," the North's foreign ministry said in a statement. "The world will soon witness how our army and people stand up against oppression and despotism by the UNSC and uphold their dignity and independence."
Tensions have been running high since Kim Jong-il's regime tested a nuclear bomb on Monday for the second time and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. The Council has been discussing a response to the North's latest nuclear test, expected to be a resolution condemning the move. But it was not yet clear if that would include new sanctions. "This is quite a complicated discussion," Britain's UN ambassador John Sawers said after the latest round of talks on Thursday. "We need some time."
South Korea and the United States put their troops on the Korean peninsula on higher alert on Thursday, and Seoul's defence ministry said forces were keeping a close watch on the land and sea border with the North. North Korea test-fired another missile off its east coast Friday, the sixth this week, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. There was no immediate confirmation but the agency's reports of five launches earlier this week were later confirmed by Pyongyang.
The US defence secretary Robert Gates, en route to a regional security meeting in Singapore, accused the North of "very provocative, aggressive" actions. But Mr Gates said he was unaware of any unusual troop movements in the North, which has about 1.1 million soldiers, compared with 680,000 South Korean and 28,500 US troops south of the border. "I don't think there is a need for us to reinforce our military presence in the South. Should the North Koreans do something extremely provocative militarily, then we have the forces to deal with it," he added