SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea criticized the U.S. on Monday for positioning missile defense systems around Hawaii, calling the deployment part of a plot to attack the regime and saying it would bolster its nuclear arsenal in retaliation.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he ordered the deployment of a ground-based, mobile missile intercept system and radar system to Hawaii amid concerns the North may fire a long-range missile toward the islands, about 4,500 miles away.
"Through the U.S. forces' clamorous movements, it has been brought to light that the U.S. attempt to launch a pre-emptive strike on our republic has become a brutal fact," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary.
The paper also accused the U.S. of deploying nuclear-powered aircraft and atomic-armed submarines in waters near the Korean peninsula, saying the moves prove "the U.S. pre-emptive nuclear war" on the North is imminent.
The commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said the North will bolster its nuclear arsenal in self-defense.
The North routinely accuses the U.S. of plotting to invade the North. But the U.S., which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, has said it has no such plan.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high since the North defiantly launched a rocket in April and conducted an underground nuclear test last month, prompting U.N. Security Council sanctions.
North Korea responded to the U.N. resolution on the nuclear test with threats of war, and pledged to expand its nuclear bomb-making program.
In what could be the first test of the U.N. sanctions, an American destroyer has been tracking a North Korean ship sailing off China's coast amid suspicions that it is carrying illicit weapons.
The Kang Nam, which left a North Korean port on June 17, is the first vessel monitored under U.N. sanctions that ban the regime from selling arms and weapons-related material. The resolution requires member nations to request permission to inspect the cargo of ships suspected of carrying banned goods.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on CBS television Sunday that Washington is "following the progress of that ship very closely." Rice would not say whether the U.S. would confront the Kang Nam.
North Korea has said it would consider any interception of its ships a declaration of war.