PYONGYANG, North Korea - North Korea chided Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday for what it calls her “reckless’’ criticism of its human rights record.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North’s arms industry now has the capacity to “steadily boost its nuclear deterrent’’ and will do so as long as Washington maintains a hostile policy.
Clinton said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should concentrate on domestic needs rather than military spending, saying he will face a backlash if he does not improve life for what she called his oppressed people.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman as saying Clinton’s comments were “imprudent’’ and “a hypocritical act.’’ The statement said the United States should pay attention to its own economic crisis and “hordes of jobless people.’’
Animosity is high after a North Korean rocket launch in April that Washington and Seoul called a cover for a test of banned long-range missile technology. North Korea says it planned to put a satellite into orbit.
Clinton made her comments after top diplomats and the defense chiefs of the United States and South Korea resolved to respond decisively to military provocations from North Korea.
Clinton said Kim, the 20-something young man who rose to power after his father’s death in December, could go down in history as a transformative leader if he brought North Korea “into the 21st century.’’
She said if he continued the model of the past, “Eventually North Korea will change because at some point people cannot live under such oppressive conditions: starving to death, being put into gulags, and having their basic human rights denied.’’
Kim is the third leader in a hereditary dynasty that has sustained six decades of autocratic rule in North Korea but is unable to feed its own people. Despite the chronic food shortages, North Korea has invested its scant resources in maintaining one of the world’s largest standing armies and in developing nuclear weapons that it claims are needed to deter a US invasion.
The United Nations reported last week that millions of North Korean children do not get the food, medicine, or health care they need to develop physically or mentally.
As for South Korea’s security, Clinton said the United States, which maintains 28,000 troops there, would stand “shoulder-to-shoulder’’ with its ally. Her South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, said Thursday’s meeting should send a clear message to North Korea about the strength of the alliance.
The United States reaffirmed that it would defend South Korea through “the full range of US military capabilities, both conventional and nuclear.’’