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North Korea Warns Danger of War is 'Snowballing'  - 2004-09-27

North Korea says the danger of war on the Korean peninsula is 'snowballing', and has accused the United States of destroying the basis for talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon told the General Assembly that North Korea would be willing to dismantle its nuclear deterrent. He suggested that stalled six-party talks on the issue could be resumed if the United States agreed to reward Pyongyang for agreeing to a freeze of its nuclear program.

But he said the Bush administration had wrecked the talks because of what he called its "high-handed and unilateralist" policies, which he said had forced the DPRK, or Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, to maintain its nuclear program.

"The nuclear issue is the product of the deep-rooted hostile policy on the DPRK pursued by the U.S. for more than half a century," he said. "In other words, the DPRK is left with no other option but to possess a nuclear deterrent in the face of the situation in which the present U.S. administration, being accustomed to rejecting our system, has been attempting to eliminate the DPRK by force while designating it as part of an axis of evil and a target of preemptive nuclear strikes."

The North Korean minister said hostile U.S. policy, as well as what he called clandestine nuclear related experiments have become big stumbling blocks to the continuation of talks.

The 'clandestine experiments' comment is a reference to South Korea's recent disclosure that it had conducted a plutonium-based nuclear experiment in 1982 and uranium enrichment project in 2000. The U.N. nuclear agency is looking into the nature of the experiments.

The six-party talks involve North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States. At the third session of the talks in June, the Bush administration offered some benefits to Pyongyang if it disclosed all its nuclear activities and allowed outside monitoring.

But North Korea replied that it would not freeze its nuclear program until after it has received a reward.

Another round of talks had been set for this month, but were postponed after North Korea called them pointless.

Minister Choe told the General Assembly Monday that Washington's attempt to isolate Pyongyang was increasing the possibility of war.

"On the Korean peninsula, the national division forced by outside forces has been lasting more than half a century and the danger of war is snowballing owing to the U.S. extreme moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and threats of pre-emptive strikes against it," he said.

The U.S. State Department this year blamed North Korea for escalating the nuclear threat.

In a separate development, Japan dispatched two destroyers and a surveillance airplane last week to investigate signs that Pyongyang is preparing to test a ballistic missile capable of reaching Japan's main islands.