North Korea steps up rhetoric amid nuclear crisis

North Korea said Tuesday it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked, in its latest bellicose rhetoric apparently aimed at deterring any international punishment for its recent atomic test blast. It appeared to be the first time that North Korea referred to its nuclear arsenal as "offensive" in nature. Pyongyang has long claimed that its nuclear weapons program is only for self-defense against what it calls US attempts to invade it. "Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means ... as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country's dignity and sovereignty even a bit," Pyongyang's state-run Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea often refers to its atomic arsenal as a nuclear deterrent.