By KIM TONG-HYUNG
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday called U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to relist it as a state sponsor of terrorism a "serious provocation" that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.
In the country's first public response to its return to the American blacklist, the official Korean Central News Agency said North Korea has no connection to terrorism and does not care "whether the U.S. puts a cap of 'terrorism' on us or not."
It said the U.S. action shows North Korea should continue to "keep the treasured nuclear sword in our hands more tightly" to protect itself from American hostility.
"By re-listing (North Korea) as a 'state sponsor of terrorism,' the U.S. openly revealed to the whole world its intention to destroy our ideology and system by using all kinds of means and methods," the agency said, attributing the comments to an unidentified spokesman at North Korea's Foreign Ministry.
"Our army and people are full of rage and anger toward the heinous gangsters who dared to put the name of our sacred country in this wretched list of 'terrorism' and are hardening their will to settle all accounts with those gangsters at any time in any way," it said.
KCNA later published a separate statement attributed to a spokesman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a North Korean state organization, which said the move by "old lunatic Trump" has caused the North Korean army and people to explode in "hate and spirit to destroy the enemy."
Experts say the U.S. decision to put North Korea back on its terrorism blacklist will have limited practical effect, but may make a diplomatic solution of the standoff over its nuclear weapons program more difficult. A day after placing North Korea back on the list, the Trump administration on Tuesday imposed new sanctions on a slew of North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies in an effort to increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program and deprive it of foreign revenue.
North Korea has been accelerating its pursuit of nuclear weapons capable of targeting the United States and its Asian allies. In recent months, the North conducted its most powerful nuclear test yet and tested a pair of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland if perfected. The country also fired powerful new midrange missiles over Japan and threated to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.
The United States has responded by dispatching strategic assets, including aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, more frequently to the region for patrols or drills.
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