TOKYO — North Korea test-fired a volley of missiles into the sea Friday and warned that it might stop disabling its nuclear facilities unless the United States drops its demands for more details about the North's nuclear arsenal.
The missile launch and the combative warning — which accused the Bush administration of "persistently trying to cook up fictions" — came one day after the North expelled 11 South Korean officials from an industrial park north of the border that separates the two Koreas.
The White House called the missile tests "not constructive" and said North Korea should "refrain from testing missiles," Reuters news service reported. But South Korea played down the missile firings, characterizing them as part of a routine military exercise. "We believe the North does not want a deterioration of relations between South and North," a government spokesman said.
The three truculent actions in two days suggest that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, after a relatively placid stretch of cooperative diplomacy, is increasingly peeved by demands from the United States and South Korea.
The Bush administration is refusing to lift diplomatic sanctions against the North until it explains its suspected uranium enrichment program and details any efforts to sell nuclear technology to Syria or other countries.
North Korea reiterated on Friday that it has "never enriched uranium nor rendered cooperation to any other country."
South Korea's new president, Lee Myung Bak, who was sworn in last month, is taking a much tougher line than his predecessors in dealing with the North.
Lee's government has said it will condition food aid and economic assistance on human rights and on timely dismantlement of the North's nuclear program.
Kim's government is facing dire food shortages due to weather-related crop failures, the soaring world price of food and declines in aid from South Korea, China and the U.N. World Food Program. The shortages are expected to reach their peak late this summer.
The World Food Program has warned that the North this summer will have about 25 percent less food than it needs to feed the country's 23-million people.
The North insisted in Friday's statement that it has submitted paperwork that fulfills all its obligations under the agreement.
The Bush administration has said North Korea has, in fact, disabled much of its primary nuclear facility, a plutonium plant at Yongbyon.
But it says that the North has failed to explain the extent of a different bombmaking process — uranium enrichment — and has refused to talk about whether it has shared nuclear technology with other countries, including Syria.