By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - North Korea's envoy to the United Nations on Friday called on the United States to lift its economic sanctions against Pyongyang and urged U.N. members not to follow Security Council sanctions imposed over the North's nuclear and missile tests.
"I urge the United States to stop economic sanctions against us," North Korean U.N. Ambassador Sin Son-ho told reporters at a rare news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York.
He added that he appealed to U.N. member states not to "blindly" follow U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, which he said were tantamount to U.S. blackmail.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed a variety of sanctions on North Korea for its three nuclear tests and numerous missile launches, including an embargo on the import and export of nuclear and missile technology and a ban on all arms exports. Washington has also imposed its own unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell was asked about the North Korean statement in Washington. He told reporters: "Our sanctions will continue."
Sin, who spoke in English, blamed the tensions on the Korean peninsula on the United States. He said Washington was responsible for a situation in which there is "neither peace nor war on the Korean peninsula."
"The most pressing issue is the aggression between the U.S. and the DPRK (North Korea), which could result in another war at any moment," he said.
He reiterated Pyongyang's call for senior-level talks with the United States aimed at replacing the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War with a peace treaty.
"The Korean armistice agreement has been nullified by the United States," he said.
He also called for the dissolution of the U.S.-led U.N. Command in South Korea, saying the forces are "war-oriented and not peace-oriented" and describing them as the "root of evil."
Sin was asked about recent North Korean statements in favor of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
"Denuclearization is our final destination," he said, while cautioning that North Korea would not unilaterally dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
Sin said he would submit a proposal for dissolving the U.N. Command, which he said had nothing to do with the United Nations, to the U.N. General Assembly. The 193-nation assembly does not have the power to issue binding decisions, which is something only the Security Council can do.
The last time Ambassador Sin held a news conference was in June 2010 when he defended his nation against Seoul's allegations that the North Korean military torpedoed a South Korean naval ship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.
The U.N. press briefing room was packed with reporters, cameramen and photographers, who came to hear Sin's nearly hour-long briefing, more than half of which involved him reading out a statement about why the U.N. Command should be dissolved and the need for a peace treaty to replace the armistice.
Sin appeared jovial as he entered the briefing room, though the two North Korean officials on either side of him maintained serious looks the entire time. He began the news conference by asking: "Ladies and gentlemen, how are you today?"
U.N. diplomats said Friday's briefing was a departure from the lower public profile the North Korean U.N. mission has adopted in recent years.
(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)