SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The Korean War ended 50 years ago, yet tensions remain high amid suspicion that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons. In a reminder of uneasiness along the world's most heavily armed border, the communist country Saturday warned of a new war.

The warning came ahead of the 50th anniversary Sunday of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 armed conflict on the world's last remaining Cold War frontier.

``The arrogant and outrageous moves of the U.S. imperialists to stifle the DPRK by force are being carried into extremes,'' North Korea's army Chief of the General Staff Kim Yong Chun said.

North Korea ``will promptly beat back any precision strike, surgical operation-style strike and pre-emptive nuclear attack with the powerful war deterrent force,'' Kim said.

U.S. officials believe North Korea already has one or two nuclear bombs, and has programs that can build several more atomic bombs within in a matter of months.

The United States and its allies want North Korea to end such programs.

Pyongyang, however, accuses Washington of inciting the dispute to use as an excuse for an invasion. Washington wants a diplomatic solution, but has not ruled out military options.

``A diplomatic solution is imperative,'' said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a statement released Saturday to mark the upcoming anniversary. ``It is also a realistic possibility.''

Korean War veterans echoed the U.N. chief's hopes for a peaceful resolution to avoid another war on the divided Korean Peninsula.

``Pray to God it doesn't happen again,'' said Benjamin Whitchurch, a British war veteran. ``Because the war as we knew it in the 50s has advanced so many times with all the different destruction bombs ... it would be an annihilation.''

Whitchurch and about 70 other British veterans attended a commemorative ceremony at a former battlefield in South Korea near the mine-laden border with North Korea. Britain fought as a member of the 16-nation U.N. force against China- and Soviet-backed North Korea.

Hopes of talks to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis have been rising in South Korea in recent weeks. South Korean officials have expressed optimism that the United States, North Korea and China will meet in Beijing soon, possibly next month, to discuss the nuclear standoff.

The United States considers North Korea's nuclear ambitions a regional threat and insists on multilateral talks involving South Korea, Japan, China and possibly Russia.

North Korea wants a one-on-one meeting with the United States.

A Japanese newspaper reported Saturday that North Korea has threatened to conduct a nuclear test if the United States does not respond positively in their dialogue to resolve the dispute.

The warning was given during unofficial contacts between a North Korean official and U.S. envoy Jack Pritchard in New York earlier this month, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported, quoting unidentified Japanese and North Korean sources.

The nuclear dispute flared in October, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted having a secret nuclear program in violation of international agreements.