GENEVA (REUTERS) - North Korea said on Wednesday that it would not give up its nuclear deterrent until the United States (US) ends its "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang, but that it was ready to revive international talks on its nuclear programme frozen since 2008.
The US and its allies believe North Korea violated a 2005 aid-for-denuclearisation deal by conducting a nuclear test the following year and pursuing uranium enrichment that would give it a second path to a nuclear weapon in addition to its plutonium-based atomic programme.
Mr So Se Pyong, the North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, warned that a joint US-South Korean military exercise planned for August would raise tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.
He also reiterated his country's call for dismantling the US-led UN Command in South Korea, which dates from the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war without a peace treaty. The 60th anniversary of the armistice falls on July 27.
"The DPRK (North Korea) will never give up its nuclear deterrent unless the US fundamentally and irreversibly abandons its hostile policy and nuclear threat towards my country... and dissolves the UN Command, a mechanism which is an aggressive military tool against the DPRK," Mr So said.
He was speaking at a rare news conference held in North Korea's mission in Geneva. His counterpart at the UN in New York, Ambassador Sin Son ho, made a similar appeal for dissolution of the UN Command on June 21..
North and South Korea agreed on Sunday to take steps to reopen a jointly run industrial park, including facilities inspections, after the two rivals staged a marathon meeting lasting more than 16 hours to arrange details.
Mr So, speaking in English, said the situation was approaching detente and an "atmosphere of dialogue is in progress", but added: "The US will stage another joint military exercise in August with South Korea. In this case, the whole Korean Peninsula will fall into the same critical wartime situation."
North Korea test-fired a missile in December, fanning perceptions of a regional threat posed by the impoverished, isolated state. In February, Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test, moving it closer to developing long-range nuclear missiles.
Mr So, asked about returning to nuclear negotiations, said: "For six-party talks, we are now ready to have any kind of talks to ease the tension on the Korean Peninsula and to solve any kind of issues, mostly the security issues, because all the problems are security concerned (related)."
A Russian statement last week after a visit by North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan seemed to echo US statements that any talks must involve action by the North to show it is moving toward disarmament.
Mr So, asked about the impact of sanctions, said that economic development was a priority under Kim Jong Un, the third generation leader who succeeded Kim Jong Il in December 2011.
"Under the leadership of my new leader, His Excellency Kim Jong Un, we are now concentrating more and more on economic development and to increase the people's livelihood, even the quality of life for the people," he said.
"We built many such as water parks, and (despite being in) the difficult position, we built water parks for people and rollercoasters for children."