UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- North Korea on Tuesday accused South Korea of seeking “the road to war” but called again for international talks on its nuclear arsenal.
South Korea’s conservative government has taken relations with the North “to their worst state with widespread atmosphere of war and confrontation,” the North’s Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon told the U.N. General Assembly.
Pak blamed what he called the South’s plan to achieve unification of the Korean peninsula “through absorption” after a collapse in the Stalinist North.
“The so-called ‘unification through absorption’ is the road to war,” he said, while a federal formula for an eventual merger agreed by their leaders in 2000 “leads to peace.”
Pak’s conflict warnings reflect the icy state of relations between the two, who have never formally ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a full treaty.
The South has taken a hard line with its neighbor over the past year since two deadly attacks by the North’s military -- the sinking of a warship in March 2010 and the shelling of a frontier island last November.
South Korea, a close ally of the United States, has also resisted the North’s calls to hold new six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program.
While the North’s revelation of a uranium enrichment program has heightened international concerns, South Korea has demanded an apology for the attacks and a sign that the North is serious about wanting to disarm.
The North’s minister said “the Korean peninsula stands at the crossroads of either relaxation of tension or the vicious cycle of aggravation of tension.”
He reaffirmed decades-old calls to the United States to hold full-fledged dialogue.
Pak said his isolated government would make “strenuous efforts” to establish lasting peace on the Korean peninsula “and will cooperate with all the parties concerned for unconditional resumption of the six-party talks.”
China, the United States, Russia, the two Koreas and Japan had been involved in the nuclear talks which the North abandoned in April 2009, a month before staging a second nuclear test.
Under U.N. nuclear sanctions and also facing a major new food crisis, the North has shown some signs of greater flexibility with the international community in recent months.
South Korea has in turn allowed religious groups to visit the North, offered its rival flood relief aid and replaced its hardline unification minister in charge of cross-border relations.
The two Koreas have also held two rounds of talks on ways to resume the nuclear negotiations.