North Korea bans ships from coastal waters

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has warned fishermen and boat captains to stay away from the country's east coast, Japan's coast guard said Monday, in another sign the communist regime is planning to fire more missiles after its recent nuclear test.

Pyongyang also threatened Monday to retaliate with a "super hard-line" response if sanctions were imposed.

North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Pyongyang "has made clear many times that we will consider any sanction a declaration of war and will take due corresponding self-defense measures." The commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency did not elaborate.

The U.N. Security Council has been discussing imposing sanctions against the North in response to its May 25 nuclear test, while Washington considers introducing its own financial sanctions.

On Monday, Japan's coast guard said it picked up a North Korean radio signal banning ships from waters off Wonsan from June 10-30. South Korean media have reported since last week that the North is planning to fire several medium-range missiles from the eastern coastal city of Anbyon near Wonsan.

Seoul's mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said Monday that there have been brisk movements of up to six vehicles mounted with mobile missile launchers at Anbyon over the past week.

But the Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified military official Monday as saying that the latest no-sail zone appears to be a move aimed at firing short-range, ground-to-ship missiles, and not necessarily medium-range missile preparations.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to confirm the report.

On Monday, Pyongyang, handed down 12-year prison sentences to two U.S. journalists, convicting them of unspecified hostility toward the country and illegally crossing the border. The reporters were arrested March 17 near the North's border with China while researching a story.

The verdict came as the U.S. was trying to muster international support for cutting off North Korean shipments that may be carrying nuclear technology or other weapons, as part of punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test and a barrage of missile launches.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast Sunday that failing to take aggressive and effective action against the North could spark an arms race in northeast Asia.

"We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money," Clinton said of possible attempts by North Korea to ship nuclear material. She spoke on ABC's "This Week," taped Thursday in Egypt.

She also said Washington is considering adding North Korea back to a list of state sponsors of terrorism.


Associated Press Writer Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

A young sea turtle is seen on Runduma island, Wakatobi. AFP/File/Adek Berry