South Korea urges world to rein in reclusive North

South Korea has blamed the North for torpedoing its naval vessel in March.

Seoul: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who blames North Korea for sinking a navy vessel, will urge the world on Friday to respond firmly to such aggression and to convince the hermit state to give up nuclear weapons.

Lee, speaking at a security conference in Singapore, will also stress the importance of the North returning to stalled six-party talks on ending its atomic ambitions and reaching a successful conclusion, the presidential Blue House said.

The North, for its part, said war could break out at any moment.

South Korea has blamed the North for torpedoing its naval vessel, the Cheonan, in March, killing 46 sailors. The North denies responsibility and has regularly accused the South of staging the incident to help Lee in this week`s local elections.

"The international community must join in efforts to convince the North`s leadership to discard the belief that the way to survival as a powerful nation is by nuclear armament," Lee will say.

Lee will also stress that the six-party talks "must be used to fundamentally resolve the North Korean nuclear problem," the Blue House said.

"Lee will stress the graveness of the North Korean nuclear issue and the Cheonan incident and will underscore the need for the international community to respond firmly to the North`s threats to peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia," it said in a statement.

"The Cheonan incident in particular requires the North to admit to its wrongdoing and promise that similar incidents will not be repeated."

`All-out war`

A North Korean envoy said in Geneva on Thursday that war could erupt at any time on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea`s troops were on "full alert and readiness to promptly react to any retaliation," including the scenario of all-out war, Ri Jang Gon, North Korea`s deputy ambassador in Geneva, told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

Ri said that only the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries would lead to the "successful denuclearisation" of the peninsula. The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, but no formal treaty.

The North`s KCNA news agency accused the South of trespassing into its naval territory ahead of joint US-South Korean military drills next week and said war could break out "at any moment”.

"The puppet military is massively amassing offensive forces in the waters off five islets of the West Sea ... and ceaselessly infiltrating its warships into the territorial waters of the DPRK for the purpose of sparking off a new armed conflict," it said.

"It is needless to say that the large-scale `demonstration of military muscle` and war manoeuvres taking place under this situation are as dangerous acts as playing with fire by the side of a powder magazine.”

"These moves are, in fact, a prelude to an all-out war."

Bureau Report

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