1. News

U.S., South Korea to seek strong punishment over North's nuclear test

SEOUL, South Korea — The United States and South Korea vowed on Tuesday to push for the "strongest possible" resolution at the U.N. Security Council, including new sanctions and the removal of existing loopholes, to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test.

The top American and South Korean envoys on North Korea expressed their resolve during a news conference in Seoul, the South's capital, on Tuesday, speaking shortly after two nuclear-capable supersonic bombers from the U.S. Air Force base in Guam streaked over the South in a show of force.

The flight by the B-1B bombers demonstrated the United States' commitment to providing "extended deterrence," including the threat of using nuclear weapons, to protect the South, said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the top U.S. military commander in the country. It was also intended to help counter calls among nationalist politicians and scholars here who contend that the South must arm itself with nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday, Sung Kim, Washington's top official dealing with North Korea, and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Hong-kyun, reiterated that the South did not need to build its own nuclear bombs or to reintroduce U.S. tactical atomic bombs that were withdrawn in the early 1990s.

Their intention was "to secure the strongest possible resolution that includes new sanctions as quickly as possible," Sung Kim said, declining to elaborate on how China, the North's main ally on the Security Council, would respond. "The situation requires a swift and strong international response."

Kim Hong-kyun said such a resolution would seek to "close the loopholes" in the existing sanctions as well as to place "pressure on North Korea from all directions so that it will no longer be able to operate normally in the international community."

Washington and Seoul insisted on sanctions as the only option until North Korea agreed to return to the negotiating table with a commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons. But the nuclear test on Friday, the most powerful by the North to date, and its recent flurry of missile tests showed that despite years of sanctions, the country was advancing toward its proclaimed goal of fitting its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.

U.S. a target?: North Korea's nuclear program is directed at the United States, a close adviser to Kim Jong Un said after last week's atomic test, according to a Japanese lawmaker who just returned from Pyongyang.

Antonio Inoki, a former professional wrestler who now serves in Japan's parliament, returned Tuesday from a five-day visit to Pyongyang saying that Japan need not worry about the North's nuclear program.

"This is not directed at Japan. The nuclear development is toward the United States," Inoki quoted Ri Su Yong, an elder statesman of North Korean foreign affairs who is particularly close to Kim, as saying.

Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.