SEOUL — North Korea warned Wednesday that it will fire an intercontinental ballistic missile -- or even carry out another nuclear test -- unless the U.N. apologizes for condemning the regime's April 5 rocket launch.
By flaunting its rogue nuclear and missile programs, Pyongyang raised the stakes in the escalating diplomatic tit for tat with the outside world. North Korea also said it would start generating nuclear fuel, an indication that the regime will begin enriching uranium, a preliminary step to making an atomic bomb.
North Korea is known for its use of brinkmanship and harsh rhetoric to force the West to react, but the threat of a nuclear test is significant.
Pyongyang conducted its first atomic test in 2006 and is thought to have enough plutonium, another material for atomic weaponry, to make at least half a dozen nuclear bombs.
There are no indications, however, that scientists in North Korea have mastered the technology needed to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit onto a missile.
Still, North Korea's rocket launch early this month drew widespread international concern.
Pyongyang says the liftoff was a nonmilitary effort to send a communications satellite into space, but the U.S., Japan and others saw it as a disguised test of a delivery system capable of sending a long-range missile within striking range of Alaska.
The United Nations Security Council denounced the launch as a violation of 2006 resolutions barring Pyongyang from missile-related activity, and imposed new sanctions.