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North Korea Blames US for Tensions at ASEAN Forum

  • VOA News

Foreign ministers gather for group photo at 20th ASEAN Regional Forum in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, July 2, 2013.

Foreign ministers gather for group photo at 20th ASEAN Regional Forum in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, July 2, 2013.

North Korea has told an Asia-Pacific security forum that it will not give up its nuclear weapons program until the United States drops what it calls "hostile" policies and agrees to hold direct talks without preconditions.

A North Korean diplomat said Pyongyang's foreign minister Pak Ui Chun made the defiant remarks on Tuesday, while meeting counterparts at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Brunei.

Diplomat Choe Myong Nam quoted the foreign minister as saying Washington must withdraw sanctions against North Korea and accept Pyongyang's offer of dialogue if it wants to achieve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Choe said recent tensions in the region were the fault of the United States.

"A vicious circle of intensified tensions has been repeated and we're on the razor's edge, which might break out a war at any time," the diplomat warned. "It was totally caused by the United States. It is absurd that the culprit is talking about others' threats or provocation."

Washington had no immediate response to the North Korean demands. Previously, it has said Pyongyang must demonstrate a willingness to abandon nuclear weapons before any direct talks take place.

South Korea said "most ministers" at the forum gave North Korea the same message.

Tuesday's regional meeting represented a rare encounter between all six nations involved in previous rounds of talks on resolving the North Korean nuclear dispute. North Korea walked out of the six-party talks with South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and its main ally China in 2009 in protest at U.N. sanctions.

Speaking Monday on the sidelines of the forum, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea are "absolutely" unified in their insistence that Pyongyang must denuclearize.

In another development, North Korean state media said the nation's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan departed for Russia on Tuesday. Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that Kim will meet Russian officials in Moscow to discuss a possible resumption of the six-party talks.

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