PYONGYANG, North Korea — Hinting at a missile launch, North Korea delivered a fresh round of war rhetoric with claims it has "powerful striking means" on standby. Seoul and Washington speculated that it is preparing to test-fire a missile designed to be capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
The latest rhetoric came as new U.S. intelligence was revealed showing North Korea is now probably capable of arming a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, though South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday it does not believe that Pyongyang has mastered that technology.
On the streets of Pyongyang, North Koreans were in party mode as they celebrated a slew of key anniversaries, leading up to Monday's commemoration of the 101st birthday of the country's late founder, Kim Il Sung.
But while there was calm in Pyongyang, there was condemnation in London, where foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations slammed North Korea on Thursday for "aggressive rhetoric" that they warned would only further isolate the impoverished, tightly controlled nation.
North Korea's provocations, including a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test in February, "seriously undermine regional stability, jeopardize the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and threaten international peace and security," the ministers said in a statement.
In the capital of neighboring South Korea, the country's point person on relations with the North, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue and reverse its decision to pull workers from a joint industrial park just north of their shared border, a move that has brought factories there to a standstill.
"We strongly urge North Korea not to exacerbate the crisis on the Korean Peninsula," Ryoo said.