North Korea's U.N. ambassador said Wednesday that U.S. modernization of its nuclear weapons and expansion of its missile defense systems will eventually spark a new nuclear arms race.
Sin Son Ho told a General Assembly meeting on revitalizing the Conference on Disarmament, which North Korea chairs this month, that if "the largest nuclear weapon state" _ a reference to the United States _ wants to stop the spread of nuclear weapons "it should show its good example by negotiating the Treaty of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons."
"The total and complete elimination of nuclear weapons remains the consistent policy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," he said, using his country's official name.
But Sin said modernization projects including making small nuclear weapons that can be used like conventional weapons and expanding missile defense systems show that the U.S. "has lost its legal or moral justifications to talk of proliferation issues."
His remarks came on the eve of talks between U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan in New York on Thursday and Friday on the possibility of reviving disarmament talks after more than a year of animosity and high tension between the rival Koreas.
The discussions aim to build on last week's talks between nuclear negotiators from North and South Korea in Indonesia, the first such meeting since disarmament talks collapsed in 2008.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sin's comments about the U.S. sparking a new nuclear arms race.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said earlier that the U.S. wants to determine if North Korea is ready "to fulfill its commitments" under a 2005 agreement requiring Pyongyang to abandon all nuclear weapons programs and allow a return of international inspections.
Sin challenged the missile defense systems "being pushed under the pretext of responding to so-called ballistic missile developments by what they call `rogue states'."
The nature and scope of these systems demonstrate that the real target is "none other than the gaining of absolute nuclear superiority and global hegemony over the other nuclear power rivals," he said.
"In the current changing world, one can easily understand that this dangerous move will eventually spark a new nuclear arms race," Sin said.
The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, the world's only multilateral forum for nuclear arms diplomacy, hasn't produced anything substantial since the 1996 nuclear test-ban treaty, a pact now on hold because key nations, including the U.S., have not ratified it.
Last September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted a high-level meeting at the U.N. to try to revitalize the conference, but the deep divisions that have stalled action were still evident _ and they were evident at Wednesday's follow-up meeting as well.
The Conference on Disarmament works on the basis of consensus, which means one country can hold up action.
The U.S. and others warned last September that either the Conference on Disarmament gets moving on a long-proposed treaty to ban production of atomic bomb material, or they would start negotiations outside the conference. The warning was aimed at Pakistan, the latest nation to block negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.
That warning was repeated Wednesday by Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control verification and compliance who said that at a time of significant progress on nuclear nonproliferation, including a new U.S.-Russia START treaty to reduce their nuclear weapon stockpiles, it was "disappointing" that a single state was preventing negotiations on the fissile cutoff treaty.
The United States would prefer to negotiate the treaty in the Conference on Disarmament, Gottemoeller said, but "because of this continuing stalemate ... we have launched consultations to move this issue forward" and promote negotiations elsewhere.
Pakistan's acting ambassador Raza Bashir Tarar said his country would not join any negotiation outside the Council on Disarmament or accept its result.
He accused the nuclear powers of pushing for a fissile cutoff treaty only after accumulating huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons and uranium and plutonium to make them.
"No country can be expected to compromise on its fundamental security interests for an instrument that is `cost free' for all other concerned countries," he said.