North Korea warns US could 'pay dearly' for rights criticism

North Korea has bristled at criticism of its human rights record

North Korea on Saturday warned Washington would only aggravate tensions and "pay dearly" for criticising Pyongyang over human rights, with nuclear negotiations between the two deadlocked.

The international community has frequently condemned North Korea for political repression, and for decades of prioritising its military and its nuclear weapons programme over adequately providing for its people.

Criticising Pyongyang's human rights record would only aggravate the "already tense situation" on the Korean peninsula, "like pouring oil over burning fire", a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The statement was in response to concern expressed by a US state department official over North Korea's human rights situation, KCNA said.

The United States "will be made to pay dearly" for such remarks, the North Korean spokesperson was quoted by KCNA as saying.

The United Nations General Assembly this week had also condemned Pyongyang's "long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross" violations of human rights.

Negotiations over North Korea's nuclear programme have been deadlocked since a summit in Hanoi collapsed in February, and Pyongyang has said that if Washington fails to make it an acceptable offer, it will adopt an unspecified "new way".

Earlier this month, it even promised a "Christmas gift" if the US does not come up with concessions by the end of the year.

It has carried out a series of static tests at its Sohae rocket facility this month, after a number of weapons launches in recent weeks, some of them described as ballistic missiles by Japan and others -- which Pyongyang is banned from testing under UN sanctions.

The Pentagon's top general said Friday the US military is ready for anything from North Korea.