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N. Korea rates nuclear power over ties with US

NORTH Korea's priority is to build up its "nuclear deterrent force" to protect itself and not normalize diplomatic ties with the United States, the government said yesterday.

Pyongyang last week said it would not give up its nuclear weapons until after Washington alters its "hostile policy" toward its government and proves it does not pose an atomic threat.

The statement was the first to lay out the country's nuclear stance since the last round of international disarmament talks stalled in December.

The North reiterated its position yesterday, saying even if diplomatic relations between the two countries were normalized, North Korea's "status as a nuclear weapons state will remain unchanged as long as it is exposed even to the slightest US nuclear threat."

North Korea "can live without normalizing relations with the US, but not without nuclear deterrent," a foreign ministry statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

The North plans to "boost the nuclear deterrent in every way to more firmly defend the security of our nation," it added.

North Korean state media regularly accuse the US of planning to attack the socialist country. Washington denies any such intention.

The North has sought to normalize relations but a disarmament-for-aid deal pact remains deadlocked.


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