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N.K. official threatens war with South Korea

ATHENS (Yonhap News) ― A senior North Korean official, who is on a rare trip to the United States, said Monday the security condition on the Korean Peninsula is so unstable that a war may occur again anytime.

Rhee Jong-hyuk, a ranking member of the all-powerful Workers’ Party of the communist nation, blamed the conservative government of South Korea, claiming Pyongyang remains committed to peace on the peninsula.

“Contact and exchange between North and South Korea, which had been brisk since the issuance of the North-South Joint Declaration, have been fully suspended and a grim condition is being created under which a war will break out,” Rhee said at the opening of the so-called Track-II academic forum hosted by the University of Georgia.

He was referring to a historic summit deal between the two Koreas in 2000 that mapped out a set of measures for peace and stability.

Rhee serves as vice chairman of the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, an organ of the Workers’ Party. The committee is in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

“The North-South Joint Declaration has been ignored over the three years since the launch of the conservative administration in the South and North-South relations have been destroyed,” he said.

But he reiterated Pyongyang’s public statement that it has a constant goal of bringing lasting peace to the peninsula.

The four-day forum is also being attended by some South Korean lawmakers and scholars, as well as several U.S. figures including Frank Jannuzi, policy director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee; James Laney, former ambassador to Seoul; and Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute.

Meanwhile, North Korea and the U.S. are apparently set to hold another round of high-level talks to explore ways to resume the six-way nuclear talks.

Diplomatic sources said the two sides plan to meet in Geneva next week. Officials at the U.S. State Department refused to confirm related reports, saying they have nothing to announce at this point.
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