SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has criticized the U.S. for reaffirming its nuclear protection of South Korea during a recent summit, saying it exposed a U.S. plot to launch atomic war.
The accusation comes as Washington and regional powers consider a new South Korean proposal to meet soon to find a way to resolve the global standoff over the North's nuclear programs.
In North Korea's first response to last week's meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington, its government-run weekly Tongil Sinbo said Obama's commitment to South Korea's security, including through U.S. nuclear protection, only revealed a U.S. plot to attack the North with nuclear weapons.
"It's not a coincidence at all for the U.S. to have brought numerous nuclear weapons into South Korea and other adjacent sites, staging various massive war drills opposing North Korea every day and watching for a chance for an invasion," said the commentary published Saturday.
The weekly also said the North will also "surely judge" the Lee government for participating in a U.S.-led international campaign to "stifle" the North.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has spiked since the North defiantly conducted its second nuclear test on May 25. The North later declared it would bolster its atomic bomb-making program and threatened war in protest of U.N. sanctions for its test.
North Korea says its nuclear program is a deterrent against the U.S., which it routinely accuses of plotting to topple its communist regime. Washington, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, has repeatedly said it has no such intention and has no nuclear weapons deployed there.
In what would be the first test case for the new U.N. sanctions, U.S. officials said Thursday the U.S. military had begun tracking a North Korean-flagged ship which may be carrying illegal weapons. The officials said the ship left a North Korean port Wednesday.
On Sunday, South Korean television network YTN quoted an unidentified South Korean intelligence source as saying the ship is believed to sailing toward Myanmar. Seoul's Defense Ministry and Unification Ministry said they could not confirm the report.
On Saturday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Seoul has proposed five-way talks with the U.S., China, Russia and Japan to find a solution to the North's threats.
The U.S. and Japan have agreed to participate, while China and Russia have yet to respond, the official told The Associated Press, requesting anonymity because he was discussing a plan still in the works.
North Korea and the five countries began negotiating under the so-called "six-party talks" in 2003 with the aim of giving the communist regime economic aid and other concessions in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program. In April, however, the North said it was pulling out of the talks in response to international criticism of its controversial April 5 long-range rocket launch.
The South Korean official said it remains to be seen where or when the meeting — if it materializes — will take place, but one possibility is on the sidelines of a regional security forum scheduled in Phuket, Thailand, in July.
He said the North could be approached for talks, as they are scheduled to attend the Phuket meeting. The communist nation has little interaction with the world, but it does attend the annual ASEAN Regional Forum.
The Foreign Ministry official said Lee proposed the idea of bringing together officials of the five countries during his summit with Obama.