updated 7/24/2006 11:41:01 PM ET 2006-07-25T03:41:01

North Korea lashed out Monday at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for saying the communist nation was irresponsible because it had not given advance warning of its recent missile tests.

On Friday, Rice labeled the North “a completely irresponsible state and very dangerous,” Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama reported.

North Korea “launched missiles only after airspace, land and waters of the sea had been confirmed to be completely safe,” according to a report carried late Monday by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The launches “hurt neither ships nor civilian planes nor anyone. This fact was admitted even by the neighboring countries,” KCNA said.

Always sensitive to criticism, the North shot back by accusing the Bush administration of being made up of “the worst gangsters in the world” and of launching a “new global nuclear arms race.”

The North’s test-firings in early July led the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution sanctioning the country and banning all U.N. member states from missile-related dealings with it. The resolution also criticized the North for endangering civil aviation and shipping by failing to give adequate notice of the launches.

The KCNA report also noted that Washington officials had spoken of possibly trying to intercept the missiles amid reports of the impending launch.

“Had the (North) announced its plan for missile launches in advance as demanded by Rice, an extremely grave situation would have been created in the Asia-Pacific,” KCNA said, adding that the North and the U.S. remain technically at war.

The 1950-53 Korean War, in which the North fought against American-led U.N. forces, ended in a cease-fire that persists to this day.

The North violated a self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile tests with this month’s launches, in which it tested a new rocket believed capable of reaching the U.S. and which failed shortly after takeoff. It also launched six other short- and medium-range missiles.

The North has refused to return to international nuclear disarmament talks, demanding the U.S. lift financial restrictions imposed for its alleged illegal financial activity, including counterfeiting and money laundering. North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons, and experts believe it has enough radioactive material to make at least a half-dozen bombs.

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