North Korea warned yesterday that it will take a "strong emergency measure" if the US takes the dispute over the communist state's nuclear weapons programs to the UN Security Council.
The warning came as the US seeks a UN Security Council statement to condemn North Korea's nuclear programs and demand that they be immediately dismantled "in a verifiable and irreversible manner."
South Korea's foreign minister said he and US Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the move, but said Washington should give North Korea more time to respond to US proposals for multilateral talks.
If the US brings the DPRK's "issue" up for UN debate, it will react to it with a strong emergency measure, said Pyongyang's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun in a commentary carried by official North Korean news agency KCNA.
DPRK is short for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Rodong said Washington's insistence on multilateral talks to settle the nuclear dispute was designed to "to justify the international pressure upon the DPRK over its `nuclear issue' and secure a justification to ignite another Korean War."
"Such moves of the US compel the DPRK to discard any expectation for the multilateral talks proposed by Washington," it said. "The DPRK has no alternative but to build up a powerful war deterrent force as long as the US pursues the policy to stifle it."
North Korea wants bilateral negotiations with Washington, but had recently said it might consider US demands for talks involving several nations if it could also meet one-on-one with the US. Washington wants talks to include Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, arguing that all four countries are affected.
To build up international pressure, Washington wants the Security Council to adopt a statement condemning North Korea's "breach of its international obligations" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, according to a US draft statement.
The council on April 9 refused to act on a US request to condemn North Korea for pulling out of the treaty because of strong opposition from China and Russia, which have close ties to Pyongyang.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan told South Korean media that he and Powell discussed the US move during the ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
"I proposed that we should think again whether it is necessary to discuss the issue at the UN Security Council at a time we are waiting for a North Korean response, and when it is appropriate to hold discussions at the council," Yoon was quoted as saying.
The nuclear dispute flared in October when US officials said North Korea admitted it had a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement with Washington.
The US and its allies suspended fuel shipments promised under the 1994 deal, and Pyongyang retaliated by expelling UN monitors, restarting facilities capable of making nuclear bombs and withdrawing from the nonproliferation treaty.