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(LEAD) N. Korea to continue nuclear weapons development if U.S. threats continue: Envoy

All Headlines 03:36 August 02, 2014

(ATTN: ADDS details, background)

NEW YORK, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's deputy chief of mission to the United Nations said Friday the communist nation has no option but to continue the development of nuclear weapons if U.S. threats against the country continue.

Amb. Ri Tong-il made the remark after calling an emergency press conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, claiming that no other country in the world is under constant threats like North Korea, and his country needs nuclear weapons to deter such threats.

Ri also urged the United Nations to take up upcoming joint exercises between South Korea and the United States as an urgent issue. Pyongyang has long denounced such annual drills as a rehearsal for an invasion of the country. Seoul and Washington say such exercises are purely defensive.

"If the U.N. Security Council turns away from this request for an emergency meeting, it will only expose itself as a UN body that has lost its principles, lost impartiality and lost its mandate of peace and security," Ri told reporters.

Ri said the U.S. has staged about 18,000 military exercises in South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. He also claimed that the United States is the biggest threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

The envoy also said the North would continue rocket and artillery launches.

"It is quite natural, more than justifiable, because this is in response to the grave situation created by the large-scale joint military exercises," he said. "The war danger is being increased."

Ri also criticized Japan for seeking the "collective self-defense right," which empowers the country to use military force to help allies even if the country itself is not attacked. He said the move is "very dangerous" because the North is a target of the defense treaties between the U.S. and Japan.

The envoy also said it is an inhumane act for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pay a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honors the country's war dead, including Class-A war criminals.

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