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. North Korea says danger of war rising, blames US
Stalinist North Korea on Monday blamed the United States for what it said was a growing danger of war on the Korean peninsula caused by hostile US policy.

"The national division forced by outside forces has lasted more than half a century and the danger of war is snowballing, owing to extreme US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK (North Korea) and threats of preemptive strikes against it," Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon said.

"The confrontation on the Korean peninsula today is, in essence, the one between foreign forces intruding into one's home and the owners struggling to defend it," he said.

North Korea has refused to return to the negotiating table for a fourth round of six-nation talks on its nuclear programme, blaming both US policy toward Pyongyang and new revelations about nuclear experiments in the South.

"The nuclear issue is the product of the deep-rooted hostile policy against the DPRK pursued by the United States for more than half a century," he told the UN General Assembly in a speech.

"The DPRK is left with no other option but to possess a nuclear deterrent in the face of the situation in which the present US administration, accustomed to rejecting our system, has been attempting to elminate the DPRK by force while designating it as part of an 'axis of evil' and a target of preemptive nuclear strikes," he said.

"Our people aspire after peace more than others but never beg for peace. The peace that they want to achieve is one for independent life, not a peace for slaves deprived of freedom," he said.

Three rounds of six-party talks -- involving the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the United States -- have been held to curb the North's nuclear weapons drive in return for diplomatic concessions and possible economic aid.

Pyongyang said it would not return for a fourth round that had been scheduled for this month.

"The ever-intensifying US hostile policy and the clandestine nuclear-related experiments recently revealed in South Korea are constituting big stumbling blocks to the continuation of the talks," Choe said.

"If the six-party talks are to be resumed, the basis for the talks demolished by the United States should be properly set up and the truth of the secret nuclear experiments in South Korea clarified completely," he said.

The North hardened its position after the South disclosed its own past experiments, which Seoul says were for research purposes only.

In a commentary Monday, the North's KCNA news agency said Pyongyang cannot discuss resuming the talks and renouncing its nuclear programme unless Washington drops its double standards and hostile policy.

Choe also blamed Washington for hindering efforts to unite his country with the South.

"The United States should no longer hamper North and South Korea in their efforts to achieve national reconciliation, collaboration and reunification," he said.

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