North Korea has lambasted the U.S. for relisting it as a state sponsor of terrorism, calling the move a “serious provocation” and vowing to continue building up its “treasured nuclear sword.”

“The U.S., the kingpin of all kinds of terrorism who cannot even prevent terror in its own territory, is acting like an ‘international judge on terrorism’ while attaching or removing the label of ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ on sovereign countries,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesperson as saying late Wednesday. “This is clearly an absurdity and a mockery to the world peace and security.”

The remarks were the first from Pyongyang since U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday the designation to re-list North Korea as one of just three other countries as state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea was removed the list in 2008 as part of an attempt to salvage international talks aimed at halting it nuclear ambitions, but the talks, which involved six countries including Japan, collapsed soon after and haven’t been revived since.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department also slapped a new round of sanctions on Pyongyang as part of its bid to stymie the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, targeting North Korean companies and ships as well as Chinese trading companies.

The North has ramped up its weapons tests this year, conducting its largest atomic blast to date in September and launching dozens of missiles — including two over Japan that experts say are designed to carry nuclear payloads — as it seeks to develop a a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

“The nuclear weapons of the DPRK are the deterrence to safeguard our sovereignty and our rights to existence and development from the U.S. heinous hostile policy and nuclear threats,” the KCNA statement read, using the formal name for the North. “As long as the U.S. continues with its anti-DPRK hostile policy, our deterrence will be further strengthened.”

The relisting, the North added, had reaffirmed that “we must continue to keep the treasured nuclear sword in our hands more tightly.”

Earlier this week, the North issued a veiled threat of a nuclear strike on Japan, vowing to make the country “disappear at once” if Tokyo continues with what the North termed “war hysteria.”

Wednesday’s remarks have raised concerns that the North could use the relisting as an excuse for fresh missile or nuclear weapons tests.

In a separate statement also carried by KCNA late Wednesday, a spokesman for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee blasted the relisting as “an extra-large provocation, tantamount to another declaration of war.”

“The U.S. should know that the DPRK’s future countermeasures will be up to the former’s action,” the spokesman said, while also issuing a warning to Washington’s allies, Tokyo and Seoul.

“We take this opportunity to warn the Abe group of Japan and the south Korean authorities, who act as puppets and faithful dogs of the U.S., zealously working to please their master, not to go reckless any longer if they are concerned about their future,” the spokesman said in reference to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


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