A senior North Korean diplomat warned a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York that “a spark of fire could set off a thermonuclear war” on the Korean Peninsula.
Pak Kil-yon, Pyongyang’s vice-foreign minster, put the blame for the tense state of inter-Korean relations firmly on South Korea’s conservative government and claimed the citizens of the North feel “shame” and “political terror.”
Monday’s speech was the first time a representative of North Korea has addressed the General Assembly since Kim Jong-un assumed power after the death of his father in December last year.
“Since taking office, the current South Korean government has caused the worst situation in North-South relations by making all inter-Korean agreements null and void,” Pak said, referring to pacts with previous South Korean administrations that sought reconciliation between the two ideological enemies and an expansion of economic co-operation.
Describing relations between the two governments as in “total bankruptcy,” Pak dismissed the South Korean government of Lee Myung-bak with the comment, “History will bring them to justice.”
Neither the United States nor the UN escaped criticism, with Pak saying recent joint military manoeuvres between the US and South Korean troops were “reckless provocations.”
“Today, due to the continued US hostile policy towards the DPRK, the vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation of tensions is an ongoing phenomenon on the Korean Peninsula, which has become the world’s most dangerous hot spot and where a spark of fire could set off a thermonuclear war,” Pak said.
Responding to the UN Security Council’s condemnation of a failed ballistic missile launch in April, Pak repeated the North’s position that the launch was of a rocket to put a satellite into orbit and that it was “legitimate and peaceful.” The UN criticism was “unjust,” he added.
Pyongyang has recently stepped up its criticism of the South Korean government, a tactic analysts believe is designed to raise hostility against the present government ahead of a general election scheduled for December.
President Lee met with senior security advisers on Wednesday of last week and issued a request that North Korea refrain from attempts to influence the election.
North Korean state-run media have in recent days claimed that Seoul is attempting to provoke a war of aggression and that South Korean warships have entered the North’s territorial waters and fired on fishing boats.
“The Lee regime is being driven into a tight corner in which it can no longer prolong its political life without committing any provocative act,” KCNA reported. “Only miserable ruin and death await the Lee regime.”
South Korean media are reporting that North Korean fighter jets have stepped up training flights since July, while artillery units in the west of the country are preparing for large-scale exercises and more submarines are putting to sea.
Pyongyang’s efforts to sow instability in the South may be having an effect, however, after a recent poll showed that nearly 66 per cent of people are unhappy with the Lee government’s hard-line policies towards the North.