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N. Korea accuses U.N. chief of defending U.S. "hostile acts" against North
SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea, in an unusual move, took a direct verbal swipe at the U.N. chief from South Korea Thursday, accusing him of slandering the communist country in a bid to curry favor with the United States.

   "U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recently let loose a string of invectives slandering the inviolable dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK, all the while defending the U.S. hostile acts against it," an unidentified North Korean foreign ministry said in a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report, monitored in Seoul.

   The DPRK refers to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   The North's criticism of Ban comes amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang is ratcheting up warlike rhetoric against the South and the U.S., condemning the allies' on-going war drills in the South Korean territory.

   In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month, Ban agreed to join international efforts to deal with the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test, calling it an "enormously provocative act and a direct challenge to the global community."

   According to published reports, Ban told Kerry at the meeting that "I have repeatedly called on the leadership of Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear programs and to instead focus on building a better future for the country’s people by addressing dire humanitarian and human rights situations."

   Alluding to the remarks, the North's foreign ministry spokesman said in the KCNA report that "this proves that he has become so biased as to openly support the hostile forces in their moves for stifling and isolating a sovereign state, a U.N. member, oblivious of the elementary principle of activities as an official of the international body."

   The spokesman said Ban should "observe neutrality, impartiality and objectivity in his work."

   Ban had served as South Korea's foreign minister before becoming the U.N. chief in 2006. He was elected to a second, five-year term late last year.