A senior North Korean official on Monday accused the United States of acting antagonistically and risking a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, the Associated Press reported.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon in remarks at the closing of the yearly U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York said, "The only way to prevent war and ensure lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula is to put an end to the U.S. hostile policy towards the D.P.R.K."
"Today, due to the continued U.S. hostile policy towards the D.P.R.K. the vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation of tension is an ongoing phenomenon on the Korean Peninsula, which has become the world's most dangerous hotspot where a spark of fire could set off a thermonuclear war," he said.
Pyongyang is upset with Washington for earlier this year canceling a planned food aid package as punishment for the North's April launching of a space rocket that was widely seen as a cover for a banned long-range ballistic missile test. The Stalinist state also opposes the stepped-up military maneuvers the United States has held with South Korea. The two allies are seeking to deter North Korea from mounting new attacks on the South.
In August, a large-scale exercise involving in excess of 80,000 military personnel from South Korea, the United States and seven other nations "drove the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war," Pak said.
The minister said his government's "patience" with such exercises is not "unlimited." He appeared to defend North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear weapon as necessary for deterring the United States from attacking.
North Korea has carried out two atomic tests to date. The first in 2006 largely fizzled and the second in 2009 was only moderately more successful. The aspiring nuclear power is believed to have enough plutonium to fuel about six warheads and has launched a uranium enrichment program that could provide it with a second source of fissile material. However, the country has yet to demonstrate the ability to miniaturize nuclear bombs or to carry out a successful long-range ballistic missile launch.
Pak's warning of thermonuclear war is significant as it marks the first time Pyongyang has suggested it has acquired a thermonuclear weapon, according to Russia Today. Still, North Korea has a long track record of significantly overstating its military and technological capabilities.
Separately, Pyongyang's National Defense Commission through an unidentified spokesman accused the South Korean navy of mounting "reckless military provocations" that have resulted in a very tense climate along a disputed Yellow Sea maritime boundary line, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Saturday.
Seoul's attempts "to preserve the illegal 'Northern Limit Line' will bring only death to them," the spokesman said in remarks carried by state-controlled media.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the top foreign policy officials of South Korea and Japan on Friday held three-way talks in New York that focused on how to achieve a fully denuclearized North Korea, according to a release from the U.S. State Department.