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S. Korea, US mull further strategic deployment after North test
By Hwang Sung-Hee
Seoul (AFP) Jan 11, 2016

N. Korea leader defends 'hydrogen bomb' test
Seoul (AFP) Jan 10, 2016 - North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un on Sunday justified what he claimed was his country's first hydrogen bomb test as self-defence to prevent nuclear war with the US, in his first comments since the explosion.

Pyongyang on Wednesday carried out its fourth nuclear test, angering the international community and raising tensions with neighbouring South Korea.

The test was "a self-defensive step for reliably defending the peace on the Korean Peninsula and the regional security from the danger of nuclear war caused by the US-led imperialists," Kim was quoted as saying.

"It is the legitimate right of a sovereign state and a fair action that nobody can criticise," he added, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The North regularly accuses the US and its ally South Korea of warmongering.

Kim's comments came during a visit to the Ministry of People's Armed Forces to congratulate them on the "successful" detonation, KCNA said, without giving the date of the visit.

They echo an official commentary published late Friday, which cited toppled leaders Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moamer Kadhafi in Libya as examples of what happens when countries forsake their nuclear ambitions.

The test has angered world powers, including the North's key ally China, and the UN Security Council has said it will roll out new measures to punish the maverick state.

South Korea has resumed high-decibel propaganda broadcasts across the border in response, which the North said were driving the divided peninsula to "the brink of war".

North Korea claimed it used a miniaturised hydrogen bomb, which is far more powerful than other nuclear devices, although experts said seismic activity suggested it was not strong enough.

The test came just two days before Kim's 33rd birthday and ahead of a rare ruling party congress scheduled to take place in May -- the first such gathering for 35 years.

The North is expected to lay out a range of key policies during the congress, which Kim said will be a "historic turning point in accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche (self-independence)".

"Let us defend the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea by strengthening the political and military might of the People's Army in every way", Kim said, adding that strengthening the military is a priority.

The state Korean Central TV late on Friday released video footage of a purportedly new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test.

But South Korean media suggested the footage was an edited compilation of the North's third SLBM test, conducted last month in the Sea of Japan, and a different ballistic missile test from 2014.

South Korea said Monday that further US "strategic assets" might be deployed to the Korean peninsula, following a flyover by a US B-52 bomber in response to North Korea' nuclear test.

Seoul also announced new restrictions on the movement of its citizens to the jointly-run Kaesong industrial park, just a few kilometres over the border inside North Korea.

The South has taken an uncompromising stance in the wake of Wednesday's test, urging the international community to impose harsh sanctions on Pyongyang and resuming high-decibel propaganda broadcasts into North Korea.

In a show of strength on Sunday, a B-52 Stratofortress -- flanked by South Korean F-15 fighter jets and US F-16 planes -- flew over Osan Air Base, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of the inter-Korean border.

The US military said the fly-by was a demonstration of the "ironclad" commitment to its military alliance with South Korea, and a direct response to the North's fourth nuclear test.

"South Korea and the US are in close consultation about additional deployment of other strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told a regular press briefing in Seoul.

- Nuclear umbrella -

US and South Korean media reports have speculated that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan -- currently based in Japan -- as well as B-2 stealth bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets are among the deployments being considered.

Asked about Sunday's flyover, China's foreign ministry on Monday urged all sides "to exercise restraint" to avoid jeopardising stability on the Korean peninsula.

Under the US-South Korea military alliance, there are nearly 30,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea, which is also protected by the US "nuclear umbrella".

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye will make a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, followed by a rare news conference, her office said.

The South's special envoy on North Korea will meet in Seoul with his US and Japanese counterparts the same day.

North Korea says last week's test was of a miniaturised hydrogen bomb -- a claim largely dismissed by experts who argue the yield was far too low for a full-fledged thermonuclear device.

State media published a photo Monday of leader Kim Jong-Un posing formally with hundreds of scientists, workers and officials who took part in the underground detonation.

Kim urged them to ensure "uninterrupted advance and innovation... for bolstering the nuclear deterrent", the North's official KCNA news agency reported.

The test has been widely condemned and the UN Security Council is discussing a new resolution that would tighten sanctions already imposed on the North after its three previous nuclear tests and banned missile launches.

As well as resuming the propaganda broadcasts, which one top North Korean official has warned could bring the peninsula to the "brink of war", Seoul has taken measures to restrict movements to the Kaesong industrial park.

On Monday the unification ministry announced that the number of South Koreans allowed to stay overnight in Kaesong was being reduced from 800 to 650.

"The aim is to minimise the presence in Kaesong, while not hampering actual production activities," a ministry official said.

The Kaesong industrial estate opened in 2004 and currently hosts more than 120 South Korean companies which employ some 53,000 North Korean workers.

The move is apparently motivated by fears that South Koreans staying in the zone could be vulnerable if North-South tensions continue to escalate.

The defence ministry spokesman in Seoul also said Monday that North Korea had deployed more troops to frontline border units.

"There has been an increase in troops along the border following North Korea's fourth nuclear test," Kim said. "But there are no immediate signs of any imminent provocation."

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S. Korea resumes propaganda broadcasts hated by North
Seoul (AFP) Jan 8, 2016
South Korea on Friday resumed high-decibel propaganda broadcasts into North Korea as the United States ramped up pressure on China to bring Pyongyang to heel after its latest nuclear test. While North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un celebrated his 32nd birthday, the international community scrambled to find common ground on how best to penalise his regime following its shock announcement two days ... read more

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