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North Korea says no longer bound by nuclear test moratorium

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea on Tuesday dismissed a rebuke by the U.N. Security Council of its failed long-range rocket launch and said it was no longer bound by an agreement with the United States for a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and arms inspection.

The Security Council on Monday condemned the North for Friday's rocket launch and warned of further action if Pyongyang carried out a nuclear test, reflecting concern that it may follow a pattern it set in 2009 with its second nuclear test.

"We resolutely and totally reject the unreasonable behavior of the UNSC to violate (our) legitimate right to launch satellites," the North said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The U.N. action was masterminded by the United States with a hostile intent denying the North of its right to conduct peaceful space research, the statement said.

"As the U.S. violated the February 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement through its undisguised hostile acts, we will no longer be bound to it," the statement said, referring to a deal for a nuclear and missile test moratorium in return for food aid.

"We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement," the North said, without specifying what actions it will take.

The fate of a planned visit by international inspectors to the North's nuclear site under the February agreement is also in doubt since Pyongyang raised tensions by going ahead with the rocket launch against international warning.

Powers including the United States, Japan and South Korea said the launch was a long-range missile test disguised as a satellite launch in violation of existing Security Council resolutions that put Pyongyang under tough sanctions.

A senior U.S. military officer said on Tuesday that Washington was looking at "all options" as it sought to discourage the North from conducting a third nuclear test, in response to a question whether it would consider a surgical strike on the North's atomic test site.

North Korea has revealed work on a uranium enrichment program, which arms experts said could give it a second path to building nuclear weapons after its plutonium-based program at its Yongbyon complex was suspended under a now-defunct 2005 international disarmament deal.

U.S. and South Korean officials have said former U.S. President Bill Clinton considered the possibility of a surgical strike on Yongbyon at the height of a nuclear crisis in 1994 before Pyongyang struck an energy deal with Washington to suspend nuclear activities.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, Choonsik Yoo and Jack Kim; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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