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(LEAD) N. Korean FM claims U.S. nuclear threats result in Pyongyang's nuclear development

All Headlines 06:26 April 22, 2016

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, UPDATES throughout with more remarks; White House briefing)

NEW YORK, April 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong claimed Thursday that the communist nation had no choice but to develop nuclear weapons in order to cope with U.S. nuclear threats.

Ri made the remark during a keynote speech at a high-level meeting of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals at U.N. headquarters, claiming the U.S. is currently conducting what he calls nuclear war exercises on the Korean Peninsula, apparently referring to annual military exercises.

"In order to remove nuclear threats, we tried dialogue and made efforts through international law, but everything went down the drain," Ri said. "The only thing left was to respond to nukes with nukes."

Ri also said that sanctions on the North are a challenge to sustainable development, but the country won't give in to such measures. He also said that U.S. attempts to topple the North through an economic blockade are an expression of ignorance.

Ri also said the North will make sure to get compensation for the U.S. hampering the North's sustainable development, and urged Washington to immediately end its "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang.

The top North Korean diplomat arrived in New York for the signing of a historic U.N. climate agreement set for Friday.

The trip has drawn keen media attention as it marks Ri's first since tensions spiked following the North's fourth nuclear test in January, its long-range rocket launch in February and the adoption of a new U.N. sanctions resolution last month.

Ri last visited New York in September to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

Speculation had arisen that the trip could provide opportunities for Ri to hold talks with U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State John Kerry amid growing concern that the North could conduct yet another nuclear test.

But the State Department said Kerry has no plan to meet with Ri.

Meanwhile, the White House said the U.S. remains open to dialogue, but the North should demonstrate its denuclearization commitment.

"North Korea, frankly, just has not indicated any degree of seriousness about denuclearization," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said at a briefing in Saudi Arabia while accompanying President Barack Obama, according to a White House transcript.

"We've said we'd be open to engagement with North Korea if they are serious about meeting their past commitments and moving towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We've seen the opposite from the North Koreans in their behavior," he said.

The Iranian nuclear deal shows "diplomacy can resolve these issues, but ultimately the North Koreans have not taken that path."

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