NKorea warns war would bring ‘nuclear holocaust’By AP News Jan 01, 2011 5:07PM UTC
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea welcomed the new year Saturday with a call for better ties with rival South Korea, warning that war “will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.”
Despite calls in its annual New Year’s message for a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the communist North, which has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006, also said its military was ready for “prompt, merciless and annihilatory action” against its enemies.
North Korea’s holiday message — scrutinized by officials and analysts in neighboring countries for policy clues — comes after its Nov. 23 artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island near the countries’ disputed western sea border, the first attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War.
That barrage, which followed an alleged North Korean torpedoing of a South Korean warship in March, sent tensions between the Koreas soaring and fueled fears of war during the last weeks of 2010.
Also Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon vowed to help improve tense relations between South and North Korea. Ban spoke with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak by telephone and said the world body would closely consult with Seoul, Lee’s office said in a statement posted on its Web site.
Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, made the pledge as Lee called for the U.N.’s cooperation in improving ties between South and North Korea. Lee called the 2011 as an “important year for the South-North relations,” Lee’s office said, without elaborating.
The Korean peninsula remains technically in a state of war because the 1950s conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
North Korea, in an editorial carried in the official Korean Central News Agency, said confrontation between the two Koreas should be quickly defused and called for a push to improve Korean relations.
“The danger of war should be removed and peace safeguarded in the Korean peninsula,” said the message, which was also read by a North Korean anchorwoman, wearing traditional Korean dress, in a state television broadcast monitored in Seoul. “If a war breaks out on this land, it will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.”
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said the North’s statement expressed its commitment to hold talks with the South.
The message shows the North wants to rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks, said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Dongguk University, noting there was no criticism of the United States, which the North often lashes out at.
The editorial said North Korea will strive to develop cooperative relations with countries that are friendly toward it, a reference Kim said was designed to send a message to Washington.
Six-nation talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have been stalled for nearly two years.
The North has previously used aggression to force negotiations. Recently, it has said it is willing to return to the talks. Washington and Seoul, however, are insisting that the North make progress on past disarmament commitments before negotiations can resume.
North Korea also stoked new worries about its nuclear program in November when it revealed a uranium enrichment facility — which could give it a second way to make atomic bombs. North Korea is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half-dozen atomic bombs.