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NORTH KOREA AFFIRMS RIGHT TO FURTHER ARM ITSELF

North Korea on Saturday defended its right to develop missiles, just two days before scheduled talks aimed at thawing relations with neighboring Japan.

The communist North said in a commentary in Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers' Party newspaper, that military cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea gave it the right to arm itself further.

"When our national sovereignty is threatened, strengthening our defense capabilities is clearly justified," said the commentary, carried by Korean Central Radio and monitored in Tokyo by the Radiopress agency.

The commentary said missile development "is a quintessential national affair."

The comments came before a scheduled two-day meeting between North Korean and Japanese government officials in China on setting up diplomatic ties. The talks are to start Monday.

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