Seoul: North Korea's state media warned on Friday the communist nation would bolster its "war deterrent," accusing the US of plotting a nuclear war, as the world awaited Pyongyang's explanation about its failure to meet a disarmament deadline.

The North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper claimed that the US is modernising its nuclear arsenal under its "aggression strategies," but made no mention of the missed year-end deadline for the country to declare all its nuclear programmes under an international agreement.

"Our republic will continue to harden its war deterrent further in response to the US stepping up its nuclear war moves," the paper said in a commentary, carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea often uses "deterrent," "war deterrent," or "nuclear deterrent" to refer to its nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang has promised to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for energy aid and political concessions. In October, it pledged to disable its nuclear facilities and issue a declaration on its atomic programmes by the end of the year - in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil from its partners in the six-way talks - the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

The North missed the deadline, and has not explained why.
The North shut down its only functioning reactor in July, and began disabling it and other facilities under the watch of US experts in November. That process was slowed by technical difficulties, but continues.


US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill plans to discuss the stalemate next week during visits to Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.

Also yesterday, another North Korean newspaper, Minju Joson, said the country had no option but to slow the disablement work, because the US and other negotiating counterparts delayed fulfilling their commitments to the communist nation.

A North Korean official made a similar claim last week.
"This shows that it is fully up to the US and related countries whether the goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula would be attained or not," the paper said in a commentary, also carried by KCNA.

The commentary did not mention the nuclear declaration.
In Seoul, South Korean President-elect Lee Myung-bak met a group of US experts on Korea, including former US Defence Secretary William Perry and former Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, seeking their advice and views on on the future of nuclear talks with the North.