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The flag of North Korea is seen in Geneva, Switzerland, June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy(reuters_tickers)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea rejects as a "provocation" a U.S.-led meeting in Vancouver that discussed tougher sanctions that Pyongyang will fight, a senior North Korean diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday.
Twenty nations agreed on Tuesday to consider tougher sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Pyongyang that it could trigger a military response if it did not choose negotiations.
Choe Myong Nam, North Korea's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said the Vancouver meeting was "harmful and dangerous."
"We denounce that meeting in the strongest possible terms, that is really harmful. It will not be conducive to peace and security and to the ongoing process between North and South that is aimed at creating a peaceful environment, easing tensions and promoting reconciliation between the North and the South," Choe said in an interview.
"We are truly committed and determined to do what we can to fight against sanctions," he said.
Asked about the possibility of a U.S. strike against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Choe said: "We have all the capacity to deter such manoeuvres on the part of the hostile forces. We are ready for dialogue and confrontation. We are ready for both."
But he said that North Korea is also determined to make the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea a success.
"EVENT OF KOREAN NATION"
"We regard this as an event of the Korean nation, not just of South Korea, (something) which should be jointly and brilliantly demonstrated to the world," he said.
A delegation of North Korean Olympic officials will arrive soon in Switzerland for talks scheduled at the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne on Saturday, Choe added.
North Korea has proposed that the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) send a mission to South Korea to interview North Korean restaurant workers "abducted" in April 2016, as well as their families in North Korea, Choe said.
"Our proposal is to make sure OHCHR undertakes a mission to both sides and finally do what they can do to secure the repatriation of these women."
A U.N. human rights spokeswoman was unable to confirm receipt of North Korea's Sept. 28 letter about the proposed visits, addressed to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Choe, asked if the North Korean restaurant workers were an obstacle to family reunions of Koreans separated by the divided peninsula, said that for family reunions to go ahead, the restaurant workers would need to be repatriated.
"We wouldn't say it is a condition. It is a principled matter. South Korea has no right or qualification to talk about reunions of separated families," he said.
"We urge South Korea to repatriate the abducted DPRK women citizens immediately without any preconditions, if they are truly interested in improving inter-Korean relations and truly interested in moving things forward in the right direction."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Mark Heinrich)