Pyongyang does victory lap as standoff with South deepens

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Pyongyang does victory lap as standoff with South deepens

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North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party, reported Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had taken a commemorative photograph with 511 nuclear scientists, technicians and construction workers who worked on what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb test. The photo session was meant to reward them for their service. [RODONG SINMUN]

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un praised the nuclear scientists and technicians involved in the country’s latest nuclear test last week, in an apparent attempt to extol the event and the success of the country’s first purported hydrogen bomb detonation.

During a photo session with hundreds of participants at the headquarters of the Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, the young ruler lauded them for “glorifying the long-held missions of his predecessors” by successfully carrying out what he said was a hydrogen bomb test-a claim that has become the subject of dispute among outside observers.

A photograph of Kim standing with the scientists was featured Monday on the front page of the Rodong Sinmun, but without clarification on when it was taken.

“Kim expressed his conviction and expectation that the [scientists] continue to move forward [to help the country become a nuclear force] and contribute to the country’s scientific research,” the state mouthpiece said.

The report appeared to confirm the regime’s long-standing persistence to pursue nuclear weapons at the expense of further crushing international sanctions. Kim emphasized that the latest test was a “self-defensive step,” intended as a protective measure against “hostile” U.S. imperialist policies.

The two Koreas have remained in a Cold War-style standoff since the nuclear test on Wednesday.

Two days later, Seoul resumed loudspeaker broadcasts along the border, a form of psychological warfare, in retaliation for the North’s actions. The messages include popular K-pop songs and directives critical of the regime in Pyongyang.

The North responded by turning on its own speakers to drown out the noise, though they could hardly be heard across the border, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said.

While the North did not issue direct threats in reaction to the loudspeaker campaign - in contrast to last year when it threatened to strike back and declare a quasi-state of war - it balked at the fly-over of a U.S. B-52 bomber.

The American bomber flew over areas near Seoul on Sunday as a clear show of force to the North.

“The U.S. is now pushing the two Koreas closer to the brink of war as they make suggestions like the deployment of a nuclear-bomber formation [to the peninsula],” the Rodong said in an editorial Monday.

It went on to describe recent U.S. responses to its nuclear test as nothing but “nonsense talk.”

Pyongyang also called on Washington to withdraw what it called its “anti-North” policy, asserting that it would continue to bolster its nuclear capacities to protect its sovereignty.

BY KANG JIN-kYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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