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North Korea denounces new Obama nuclear strategy

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South Korean activists shout slogans during a rally against U.S. President Barack Obama's new nuclear policy near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 8, 2010. South Korean activists shout slogans during a rally against U.S. President Barack Obama's new nuclear policy near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 8, 2010.

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea denounced President Barack Obama's new nuclear stance as "hostile" and vowed to continue expanding its atomic arsenal Friday as the country's rubber-stamp parliament held an annual session focused on rescuing and revitalizing the tattered economy.

Obama pledged Tuesday to resist using nuclear weapons against nations that comply with international nonproliferation standards — exempting North Korea and Iran from the new policy.

Miffed by Obama's move, North Korea accused his government of being no better than the Bush administration, "hell-bent on posing a nuclear threat" to North Korea, and said it would not give up its atomic weapons.

"As long as the U.S. nuclear threat persists, (North Korea) will increase and update various type nuclear weapons as its deterrent in such a manner as it deems necessary in the days ahead," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Friday.

Washington and other regional powers have been trying to coax North Korea back to disarmament talks it walked out of last year.

North Korea had shown a willingness in recent months to return to the negotiations, but the ministry said Obama's new policy "chilled the hard-won atmosphere for the resumption of the talks."

North Korea cites a U.S. threat as a main reason behind its drive to build nuclear weapons. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North. The two Koreas remain locked in an official state of war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953.

Meanwhile, North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly held its annual rubber-stamp session to approve bills vetted by the ruling communist Workers' Party.

Last year's gathering marked leader Kim Jong Il's triumphant return to the public eye after months out of sight amid rumors he had suffered a stroke in 2008, but there was no sign Friday of Kim — who has skipped legislative sessions in the past — in reports issued by KCNA.

State TV did not show any footage from the session presided over by North Korea's premier, and Kim's name was not in a list of key participants mentioned in the report.

Legislators discussed plans for economic development, the state budget, constitutional revisions and personnel appointments, it said. The most important item on the agenda involved "stepping up the technological upgrading and modernizing of the national economy," KCNA said.

Late last year, the North redenominated its currency as part of efforts to lower inflation and reassert control over the nascent market economy. But the move reportedly worsened the country's food situation as markets closed and many North Koreans were angered by being left with piles of worthless bills.

The session took place amid speculation that Kim would promote officials to help solidify a plan to hand over power to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

There are persistent questions about the health of the autocratic 68-year-old leader, who appears to be undergoing kidney dialysis every two weeks, according to Nam Sung-wook, head of the security think tank affiliated with South Korea's top spy agency. Kim also is believed to have chronic heart disease and diabetes.

Students frolicked at "dancing parties" held Friday in the capital and across the country in honor of the 17th anniversary of Kim's selection as the nation's leader, KCNA said.

"Youth and students merrily danced to the tune of 'Glory to General,' 'Confetti of Best Wishes' in the dancing places in Pyongyang including the plazas of the Party Founding Memorial Tower, the April 25 House of Culture and the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium," the report said.


Associated Press writers Jean H. Lee and Kwang-tae Kim contributed to this report.

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