SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea vowed on Tuesday to bolster its nuclear deterrent in response to diplomatic pressure from Washington over a recent failed rocket launch.
The United States, backed by the United Nations Security Council, has warned North Korea that it will face more sanctions if it undertakes what would be its third nuclear test.
Even staunch ally China has put pressure on Pyongyang to back down on any plans for a nuclear test, that experts fear could use highly enriched uranium for the first time, potentially giving North Korea a second path to a nuclear bomb to supplement its limited stocks of plutonium.
The reclusive state said the "nuclear test rumor" had been started by Washington.
The country's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement via the official KCNA news agency that it would "bolster its nuclear deterrent as long as the United States was continuing with its hostile policies" and that it planned "countermeasures" following the pressure from Washington.
In April this year, North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un pushed ahead with a long range rocket launch that the United States said was essentially a test for a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, although Pyongyang said it was a peaceful satellite launch.
Kim, who has pushed the same "military first" policies as his dead father and abrogated a February deal with Washington that would have seen food aid exchanged for nuclear inspections and an end to rocket launches, among other things.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by David Chance and Jeremy Laurence)