N. Korea says uranium enrichment in final stage, rejects U.N. demand

North Korea said in a letter sent Thursday to the U.N. Security Council that its uranium enrichment experiment has progressed to the final phase and plutonium extracted from a resumed nuclear facility is being turned into weapons, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Pyongyang also rejected a demand by the U.N. sanctions committee for explanations about an Iran-bound cargo ship seized by the United Arab Emirates that was carrying North Korean weapons.

The North warned that if sanctions stay in effect, another ''stern action'' would have to be taken, according to the news agency.

The letter was sent by the North Korean permanent representative at the United Nations to the president of the Security Council.

This was the first official reaction by North Korea to the seizure of the cargo ship on July 22.

The sanctions committee sent letters to Iran and North Korea asking for explanations about the cargo.

In Seoul, South Korea voiced ''deep regrets'' at North Korea's claim its uranium enrichment has reached the final stage.

''It is a matter of deep regrets that North Korea has shown an attitude that runs contrary to the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874,'' Foreign Ministry Spokesman Moon Tae Young said in a press release.

U.N. resolution 1718 was adopted after the North conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006 while resolution 1874 was taken after the North's second nuclear test in May this year.

Moon said the North's ''provocative acts can never be tolerated because they are in complete denial of a resolute determination of the international community to achieve North Korea's denuclearization and peace and stability in Northeast Asia.''

South Korea will closely cooperate with related countries to have North Korea return to the six-party talks for the North's denuclearization, Moon said.

The North's moves will be discussed at talks with Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, who is to visit Seoul later Friday.

Moon's remarks were in direct response to the letter North Korea sent Thursday to the U.N. Security Council saying its uranium enrichment experiment has progressed to the final phase and plutonium extracted from a resumed nuclear facility is being turned into weapons.

In Beijing, U.S. envoy Bosworth told reporters before leaving for Seoul, ''Obviously, anything that the North is doing in the area of nuclear development is of concern'' to the United States.

He also said the United States is ready to meet directly with North Korea, but ''only within the context of the six-party process.''

Bosworth, who will also visit Japan on his three-country East Asian tour, said he has no plans to visit North Korea during this trip.

In its letter to the United Nations, North Korea said it ''totally rejects the UNSC 'Resolution 1874,' which was unfairly orchestrated in June 13 in wanton violation of the DPRK's sovereignty and dignity and that the DPRK will never be bound by this resolution.''

''We do not feel, therefore, any need to respond to the request made by the UNSC 'committee','' the letter continued.

''Had the UNSC, from the very beginning, not made an issue of the DPRK's peaceful satellite launch (this spring) in the same way as it kept silent over the satellite launch conducted by south Korea on August 25, 2009, it would not have compelled the DPRK to take strong counteraction such as its 2nd nuclear test,'' the permanent representative added.

''It would be a miscalculation if the UNSC, rather than apologizing for violating the legitimate right of a member state of the UN, thought that we would recognize the 'sanctions resolution' which was framed up in the same way as the thief turning on the victim with a club over the DPRK's self-defensive steps,'' the letter said further.

It also said North Korea has ''never objected'' to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula ''and of the world itself,'' but charged the six-way talks among North and South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan on North Korea's nuclear ambitions have been ''used to violate outrageously the DPRK's sovereignty and its right to peaceful development.''

''We are prepared for both dialogue and sanctions,'' the letter said, adding, ''If some permanent members of the UNSC wish to put sanctions first before dialogue, we would respond with bolstering our nuclear deterrence first before we meet them in a dialogue.''

North Korea withdrew from the six-party talks in late July.

It had carried out a second nuclear weapon test on May 25 after the United Nations discussed sanctions against it following the North's attempted satellite launch on April 5, which critics saw as a poorly disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile.

Earlier U.N. resolutions had called on North Korea to end ballistic missile tests.

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on September 4, 2009)