SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Saturday it is ready for war, even as it sent its top diplomat to Russia amid a flurry of regional diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions over the deadly artillery attack North Korea South Korea.
North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun was in Russia, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said in a report of a single sentence. No details, but accused Pak of South Korea and the United States on Friday of a policy of hostility and confrontation, and reiterated that North Korea needs to defend its nuclear program.
"Once again they are convinced that we made the right decision in strengthening our defenses with nuclear deterrence," the Russian news agency Interfax quoted him as saying in an interview.
North Korean National Peace Committee said the U.S. also and South Korea are pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula close to war.
"The army and people of (North) are ready for war and the escalation of a war," the committee said in a statement carried by KCNA. "They will deal merciless retaliatory blows of the provocateurs and aggressors and exploit their towns and bases."
The tough rhetoric came two days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang met with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Beijing's top foreign policy official. The two reached consensus on the situation on the Korean Peninsula during talks frank and in depth, China's official Xinhua news agency said, without elaborating.
It was unclear whether the two discussed North Korea November 23 artillery attack on an island off South Korea played the two Koreas' western sea border. The bombing killed four South Koreans, including two civilians.
China has been under intense international pressure to use its diplomatic influence to monitor North Korea, its ally.
On Friday, China, South Korea reported on the meeting of Dai Kim through a diplomatic channel, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Saturday, noting that North Korea's position appears to remain unchanged. He did not elaborate and declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is to visit North Korea next week, raising the prospect of a diplomatic solution to tensions. Is away from the U.S. Tuesday.
The diplomatic troubleshooter has made regular visits to North Korea and has also received the North Korean officials in New Mexico. He helped secure the release of Americans held in North Korea in the 1990's and traveled to Pyongyang in 2007 to recover the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.
The flurry of diplomacy in South Korea comes as the optimism of President Lee Myung-bak said during a visit to Malaysia that the reunification of Korea is approaching.
"Now North Korea remains one of the most belligerent countries in the world," Lee said in an interview published Friday in The Star newspaper of Malaysia. However, he added, is a "fact that the two Koreas are to coexist peacefully and, ultimately, to achieve reunification."
In a speech Thursday night, Lee made similar comments, saying that North Korea have become increasingly aware that the South is better. He did not elaborate on how knowledge has expanded, but said it was "a major change that no one can stop."
"Reunification is about," said Lee, according to the website of the president.
He also called on China to urge North Korea to accept the same economic openness that has brought millions of Chinese out of poverty - and said that North Korea economic independence was the key to reunification.
Lee did not give a specific deadline for the reunification of the Korean peninsula was divided after the end of Japanese occupation in 1945 and officially remains in a state of war, because from 1950 to 1953 the two Koreas "conflict ended an armistice, not a peace treaty.
It was not clear why Lee was making an effort to reunite now. The South Korean leaders often call for a peaceful reunification with the North. In Seoul, however, a fear of the enormous social and economic costs associated with absorbing the impoverished North Korea.
North Korea has also repeatedly called for reunification, but imagine the integration in its authoritarian political system. Has shown no sign that they allow the grouping that results in their absorption by the richer South.