North Korea calls Seoul nuclear summit a "childish farce"

SEOUL - Isolationist North Korea lashed out at its neighbour on Wednesday for hosting an international nuclear security summit in Seoul next month, calling it a "childish farce" and an "intolerable grave provocation".

The South has said Pyongyang can send a delegate to the conference involving some 50 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, but insists the invitation is conditional on it renouncing its own nuclear programme.

The two Koreas are still technically at war, having signed only a truce to end their 1950-53 civil conflict, not a peace treaty, and the United States has some 28,000 troops based in the South.

"It is astonishing that a meeting dealing with the issue of nuclear security is to be convened in south Korea, a nuclear advance base for the US and the world's largest nuclear powder magazine," KCNA state news agency quoted an official statement as saying.

Referring to "south" Korea without the capital "S" is its way of denying its existence as a separate country. It said the March 26-27 summit showed that south Korea was a "special-class nuclear war servant for its American master".

The United States guarantees the South's security under its so-called "nuclear umbrella", but says it does not keep nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

The North itself has twice tested nuclear devices, and analysts say it has enough fissile material to make more half a dozen atomic bombs.

Pyongyang, subject to international sanctions for its nuclear weaopns programme, has said it is willing to rejoin regional talks which offer the impoverished state aid in return for giving up its nuclear weapons programme.

Experts, however, doubt the North's new leadership has any intention of giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons because it sees them as a deterrent against attack and a negotiating chip.

North Korea and US officials will meet in Beijing on Thursday for a third round of bilateral talks aimed restarting the regional "six-party" nuclear talks which broke down in 2009.

The nuclear security summit is focused on preventing nuclear terrorism and safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities.