N. Korea warns of war, repeats US talks offer

A top North Korean envoy said Friday that US hostility could lead to war at any time, but reaffirmed a government offer of talks with Washington that could include the nuclear weapons issue.

At a rare but typically combative news conference, the isolated state's UN ambassador Sin Son-Ho accused the United States of driving up tensions and appealed for an end to UN and US sanctions against Pyongyang.

"The most pressing issue in northeast Asia today is the hostile relations between the DPRK (North Korea) and the US which can lead to another war at any moment," Sin said.

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With his country facing mounting UN and international sanctions over its recent nuclear bomb and missile tests, Sin said the North would never give up its atomic weapons.

North Korea "has a legitimate sovereign right to (its) self-defense deterrent as long as the United States continues its hostile policy towards DPRK and threatens it with nuclear weapons."

The country will "never give up (its) self-defense war deterrent."

Sin said US-South Korean war games risked leading the Korean peninsula into "another vicious cycle of tensions and conflict".

But the warnings were also mixed with the North's new message that it wants talks with the United States. The North's all-powerful National Defense Commission said Sunday that it was ready to negotiate with the US administration.

"This is our real intention to have talks," Sin said. "In the talks we can have wide-ranging discussions with the United States including those of easing tension on the Korean peninsula.

"Also we can discuss the matter of the world without nuclear weapons the United States has already proposed."

The envoy said that UN and US sanctions against North Korea, reinforced since its nuclear test in February, were "blackmail".

"I urge the United States to stop economic sanctions against us," Sin said, adding that UN member states should not "blindly" follow UN sanctions.

A US State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, had no immediate comment on the talks offer but said "our sanctions will continue."

North Korea has said it wants talks with the United States to replace the armistice which halted but did not formally end the 1950-53 Korean war.

North and South Korea will next month mark the end of the war which left the peninsula divided and wracked by regular clashes.

Sin blamed tensions on the United States and called for the abolition of the US-led UN Command in South Korea, which the ambassador said was "war-oriented" and the "root of evil."

The envoy said the United States wanted to turn the UN Command into "an Asian version of NATO" to combat North Korea.

The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea and their annual joint military exercises infuriate the North Korean government.

North Korea has shunned six-nation talks on its nuclear arsenal since late 2008. After testing its bomb again in February, the North has shut down ties with South Korea.

But it has faced growing pressure from China, which voted for the additional UN sanctions against its neighbor, and has urged Pyongyang to ease tensions.

The United States has repeatedly said it will not accept a nuclear North Korea. President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping agreed at a summit earlier this month that the North must give up its arsenal.

North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks in Beijing on Friday on ways to restart nuclear talks, China's foreign ministry said.

Obama said this week that Beijing was taking a tougher line against its neighbor's nuclear program.

"We've seen the Chinese take more seriously the problem of constant provocation and statements from the North Koreans -- rejecting the nuclearization," Obama said on US television.

by Tim Witcher © 2013 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Jun 21, 2013