UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea's U.N. envoy demanded the dissolution of the United Nations Command in South Korea on Friday, accusing the United States of using the force to prepare for war against the North and build an Asian version of NATO to realize President Barack Obama's pivot to Asia.
Ambassador Sin Son Ho told reporters at a rare news conference that the most pressing issue in northeast Asia today is the hostile relations between North Korea and the United States "which can lead to a new war at any moment."
He reiterated North Korea's surprise offer last Saturday of wide-ranging senior-level talks with the United States "to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region."
The proposed talks followed months of rising tensions and anti-American rhetoric by North Korea and the collapse earlier this month of proposed high-level talks between North and South Korea, amid bickering over who would lead the two delegations.
Sin stressed that the deteriorating situation on the Korean peninsula "is not caused by the DPRK," the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"All deteriorations and intensified situations (are) entirely caused by the United States of America," he insisted on several occasions.
Sin said U.S.-North Korea talks should include replacing the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War — and he stressed that one of the "prerequisite requirements" for establishing "a peace mechanism" to replace the armistice is the dissolution of the U.S.-led U.N. Command.
The ambassador said the talks can include "a world without nuclear weapons," which the United States has already proposed.
But he warned that North Korea will not give up its nuclear "self-defense deterrent" unless the United States "fundamentally and irreversibly abandons its hostile policy and nuclear threat" toward the North and dissolves the U.N. Command, which oversees the armistice, and as long as there are nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.
The U.S. State Department said: "The United States remains committed to authentic and credible talks on denuclearization" in order to implement a Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement in which the DPRK made a commitment to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, and to bring North Korea into compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions "through irreversible steps leading to denuclearization."
The Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and left the Korean peninsula divided by a heavily fortified border monitored by the U.N. Command. Washington also stations 28,500 American troops in South Korea to protect its ally against North Korean aggression.
A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted two days after North Korean troops invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, recommended that U.N. member states provide military forces and other assistance "to a unified command under the United States of America" to assist the South.
At peak strength, when the armistice was signed in July 1953, the command had over 930,000 troops from 17 countries, including more than 590,000 South Koreans and 302,000 Americans. Since then, the command has overseen the armistice.
In 1994, then U.N. secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali distanced the United Nations from the U.N. Command saying in a letter to North Korea's foreign minister that the Security Council didn't establish it "but merely recommended the creation of such a command, specifying that it be under the authority of the United States."
"Therefore the dissolution of the unified command does not fall within the responsibility of any United Nations organ but is a matter within the competence of the Government of the United States," Boutros-Ghali was quoted as saying.
In a lengthy statement, Sin claimed the U.N. Command "was a tool of war for aggression which was organized by the U.S." and "has nothing to do with the U.N."
"The U.N. Command is the U.S. command in essence," he said, and if necessary the DPRK will submit the issue to the U.N. General Assembly to dissolve it.
Sin said all the facts show that the U.S. is gradually transforming the U.N. Command into a multinational military alliance "which would serve as a matrix of the Asian version of NATO" and "a stepping stone for the U.S. armed forces for aggression toward the DPRK and the realization of ... America's pivot to Asia strategy."
The U.S. aim, he said, is to make South Korea "a forward base for domination of (the) Asia Pacific region and hold fast to it as a cannon fodder for an aggressive war."
As a result, he said, "the situation on the Korean peninsula this year has reached to the full-scale nuclear showdown and to the brink of war between the DPRK and the U.S."
Sin's appearance before U.N. journalists was his first since June 15, 2010 when he vehemently denied any North Korean involvement in the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March 2010 and demanded that military investigators from the North be allowed to go to the site to verify the results of a South Korean probe. It concluded the ship was sunk by a torpedo launched by a North Korean midget submarine.
The ambassador also answered questions on a number of other issues Friday, saying "we don't have any human rights problems in our country," that recent North Korean talks with China were "very friendly," and that the U.S. should "stop economic sanctions against us."
Associated Press Writer Maria Sanminiatelli contributed to this report from the United Nations