In a speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly that was peppered with anti-American rhetoric, Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon also slammed Japan's push for a permanent seat on the Security Council and criticized the Security Council itself as irresponsible, unrepresentative and unfair.
Choe said U.S. financial sanctions, imposed shortly after a joint statement was issued at six-nation talks on the communist North's nuclear program on Sept. 19, 2005, had convinced Pyongyang that the negotiations were not worth pursuing.
"It is quite preposterous that the DPRK, under the groundless U.S. sanctions, takes part in the talks on discussing its own nuclear abandonment," Choe said, referring to the North by its acronym. He called it a "principle that cannot tolerate even the slightest concession."
"North Korea went on the offensive, accusing the United States of not supporting the six-party talks and saying that Pyongyang would not return to them unless financial sanctions are lifted," says CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk. "Since last July, when North Korea fired ballistic missiles, the U.N. has unanimously condemned the government action. But the stakes are high and nuclear brinkmanship as well as North Korea's refusal to return to negotiations, will again push the Security Council to a debate on sanctions."
The United States shrugged off the denunciation.
"I wouldn't pay too much attention to that. We're trying to step up our work with the South Koreans to make sure we're really in synch," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told the AP in Washington.
"We're very focused on it," Hill said of efforts to restart the six-nation talks. He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was contemplating a trip to Asia in the next month or so "to try to jump-start the six-party process."
Choe claimed North Korea has developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent solely for self-defense against preemptive strikes by the United States and was eager, in principle, to hold talks, but that Washington's "vicious, hostile policy" made negotiations unacceptable.
He blamed aggravated tensions on the Korean peninsula on the U.S. military presence in South Korea, a U.S. doctrine of a preemptive nuclear strike against the North, large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises, U.S. military equipment sales to Seoul and regular U.S. aerial reconnaissance flights over the North.
"It is crystal clear that the U.S. is not in favor of the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Choe said, referring to U.S. President George W. Bush's characterization of the North as part of an "axis of evil."
"If there is anything that the United States is in favor of, that is the aggravated tension on the Korean peninsula to be used as a pretext for reinforcing its military forces in the Northeast Asian region ... within its world supremacy strategy."
Choe said North Korea "maintains its consistent position to resolve the issue of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiations."
He said the North "is sure to get a greater benefit" from the implementation of the September 2005 agreement, and he thanked U.N. member states "for their continued support and encouragement" to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully.
North Korea has boycotted the six-party talks, involving China, Japan, the Koreas, Russia and the U.S., insisting it will not return unless Washington drops financial restrictions imposed for the regime's alleged complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering. The U.S. has said the North should not link the financial issue to the nuclear talks.
The need to resume the nuclear talks has taken on added urgency since North Korea test-fired a series of missiles in July. Reports have also suggested the communist regime might conduct a nuclear test to further escalate tension.
North Korea boasts that it has nuclear bombs, but the claim has not been independently verified. Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons.
One of the U.N.'s top priorities is reforming the world body, which was established in the political realities of post-World War II, particularly the Security Council. Choe urged that the power to issue resolutions related to international peace and security be shifted from the 15-member Security Council — where the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France have veto power — to the 192-member General Assembly where there are no vetoes.
"The fact that the Security Council remains indifferent to the infringement of sovereignty and massacre of civilians committed in the Arab territories, such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Israel's aggression in Lebanon, represents typical examples of irresponsibility, unfairness and double-standards in its activities," Choe said.
He said Japan must never be allowed to have a permanent seat on the Security Council, calling it a "war criminal which invaded Asian countries and committed a massacre of innocent people but has been distorting its aggressive history instead of liquidating it."