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(LEAD) N. Korea slams U.S. over growing talk of maritime blockade

All News 17:58 December 10, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional information, more background, reports of English version of Rodong Sinmun commentary, minor changes throughout)

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out at the United States on Sunday over the possible use of a naval blockade in the wake of its recent missile provocation, warning that it would consider such a move as a "declaration of war."

The condemnation came after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently mentioned the "right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods" to and from the North after its Nov. 29 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile believed capable of striking anywhere on the U.S. mainland.

"The DPRK will regard the U.S. and its vassal forces' project for sea blockade against it as wanton infringement on its sacred sovereignty and dignity and another open declaration of war, and will never remain passive," the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's ruling communist party newspaper, said in a commentary. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The latest North Korean missile launch marked the first of its kind in 75 days, but 11th since South Korea's Moon Jae-in administration came into office in May. Its military provocations so far have also included a nuclear test staged Sept. 3.

The North Korean newspaper blamed the United States for the ongoing standoff.

"The situation clearly proves that the U.S. is just the thrice-cursed criminal wholly to blame for worsening the situation on the Korean peninsula and wrecking global peace and security and that the Trump cult deserves worldwide criticism for its sanctions racket to stifle the DPRK, a heinous crime," it said.

The paper added the country will take "merciless countermeasures" at the slightest sigh of the U.S. putting the blockade project into practice.

The Korean Central News Agency, the North's official newswire service, filed a similar report in English on Friday saying, "The U.S. moves for sea blockade can never be tolerated as they constitute a wanton violation of the sovereignty and dignity of an independent state."

Talk of a possible maritime blockade has also emerged in academic circles though Seoul has reiterated its opposition to any military options, including a pre-emptive strike, to address the nuclear standoff.

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