North Korea takes diplomatic offensive to UN

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - North Korea took its demand for a thaw in ties with South Korea to the United Nations on Friday, urging its rival to "end the vicious cycle of slandering and hatred." UN ambassador Sin Son-Ho gave a rare press conference setting out the North's proposals to avoid a "nuclear holocaust" and condemning South Korea's planned war games with US forces.

But the envoy would not answer questions about Pyongyang's apparent diplomatic drive for better relations, which South Korea has already expressed doubts about.

"Any war on the Korean peninsula will help big powers fish in troubled waters and bring unimaginable destruction to Koreans," Sin said, calling for international pressure to halt the exercises.

Sin said the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, due to be held by US and South Korean forces next month, should be moved to the United States.

"If the coordination and cooperation with the US are so precious and valuable, they had better hold the exercises in the secluded area or in the US, far away from the territorial land, sea and air of the Korean peninsula," he declared.

The ambassador also reaffirmed Pyongyang's calls for an end to provocation and slander between North and South Korea from January 30.

To improve relations, he said, "it is imperative to halt slandering, stop hostile military acts between the both sides and create climate of reconciliation." The envoy did not mention reunions of families kept apart since the 1950-53 Korean War that the North proposed on Friday.

Seoul has welcomed this initiative but been more cautious about other proposals from the North.

Sin listened to three questions from reporters at the press conference but did not answer them. He told journalists to study his statement and North Korea's state media to get their answers.