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(2nd LD) N. Korea vows to bolster nuclear deterrent to counter U.S. threat
NEW YORK/SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea will not give up but rather bolster its nuclear deterrent as long as the United States threatens the communist nation, a senior diplomat from Pyongyang said Wednesday.

   Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon made the remark during a keynote speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, claiming that the North's nuclear weapons are for self-defense, not for attacking or threatening others.
"As long as the U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers sail around the seas of our country, our nuclear deterrent can never be abandoned but should be strengthened further," Pak said. "This is the lesson we have drawn."

   North Korea uses the term "nuclear deterrent" to refer to its atomic weapons stockpile.

   The North's stance was not new, the communist regime having long claimed that the U.S. is plotting a nuclear attack against it, and therefore, the country needs atomic weapons to counter the threat. But Pak's speech came as North Korea accelerates a power succession process by placing leader Kim Jong-il's third son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, in powerful posts.

   Pak said, however, that the North is willing to join "the international efforts for nuclear non-proliferation and safe management of nuclear material on an equal footing with other nuclear weapon states."

   Pak also continued Pyongyang's denial that the regime has anything to do with the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March, and rejected Seoul's demand that the North take responsibility for the disaster that claimed the lives of 46 sailors.

   North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and claims it is a nuclear power. International negotiations to end Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions have been stalled since December 2008 due to North Korea's boycott.

   Prospects for resumption of the talks have dimmed further since the ship sinking in March.

   South Korea criticized Pak's speech, saying it runs counter to international hopes for a nuclear-free North Korea.

   "Not only our country, but also countries involved in six-party talks have been hoping that North Korea will realize denuclearization and contribute to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said.

   Pak's speech "runs counter to these hopes, and this attitude by the North is not conducive to the current situation," he said.