SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea on Thursday vowed to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test.
An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for "pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the headquarters of the aggressors" because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.
Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. It is believed to have enough nuclear fuel, however, for a handful of crude nuclear devices.
Such inflammatory rhetoric is common from North Korea, but it has been coming regularly in recent days. North Korea is angry over the possible sanctions and over upcoming U.S.-South Korean military drills.
The U.N. Security Council is set to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Pyongyang in a fresh attempt to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said the council will vote on the draft sanctions resolution Thursday morning.
The resolution was drafted by the United States and China, North Korea's closest ally. The council's agreement to put the resolution to a vote just 48 hours later signaled that it would almost certainly have the support of all 15 council members.
The statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
It accused the U.S. of leading efforts to slap sanctions on North Korea. The statement said the new sanctions would only advance the timing for North Korea to fulfill previous vows of taking "powerful second and third countermeasures" against its enemies. Those measures haven't been specifically elaborated on.
"We gravely warn that at a time when we cannot avoid a second Korean War, the U.N. Security Council, which served as the U.S. puppet in 1950 and made Korean people harbor eternal grudges against it, must not commit the same crime again," it said.
North Korea in the statement demanded the U.N. Security Council immediately dismantle the American-led U.N. Command that's based in Seoul and move to end the state of war that exists on the Korean Peninsula, which continues six decades after fighting stopped because an armistice, not a peace treaty, ended the war.