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N. Korea lashes out at Japan over nuclear talks

Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea called Japanese officials "political imbeciles" on Saturday for saying they will not accept Pyongyang as a nuclear power, less than a week after the reclusive communist state agreed to return to international arms talks on its atomic program.

In typically harsh rhetoric, North Korea also condemned the United States as "fanatic warmongers who destroy peace and security on the Korean peninsula."

The North agreed earlier this week to return to the international disarmament negotiations in the first easing of tension after its Oct. 9 nuclear test.

The talks have been stalled for a year.

A statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry on Saturday said "there is no need for Japan to participate in (the talks) as a local delegate because it is no more than a state of the U.S. and it is enough for Tokyo just to be informed of the results of the talks by Washington."

The Foreign Ministry said most of the international community had welcomed North Korea's return to the talks, but that "it is only Japan that expressed its wicked intention," referring to comments by Tokyo that it will not accept a nuclear North Korea.

"The Japanese authorities have thus clearly proved themselves that they are political imbeciles," added the statement, carried by the North's official Korea Central News Agency, or KCNA.

An official from Japan's Foreign Ministry said the government was aware of North Korea's statement and was considering a response. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

Japan is a common target of criticism from the North, stemming from Tokyo's imperial occupation of the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century. Pyongyang has called before for Japan to be excluded from the nuclear talks.

The North also kept up its verbal attack on the United States in an editorial by the typically bellicose Rodong Sinmun newspaper that was also run by KCNA on Saturday.

"The U.S. has become more fanatic in pushing for its war scheme to attack the North, taking issue with our war-deterrent measure we were compelled to strengthen to protect our sovereignty and right to survive from their serious threat," the editorial said.

The North often refers to its nuclear program as a self-defensive measure against the threat of a U.S. attack -- an accusation Washington has repeatedly denied.

Meanwhile, the North's leader Kim Jong Il visited an army unit, KCNA reported late Friday, his first public military visit since last month's test and the first known public appearance after the country agreed to return to the arms talks. It was not clear from the report when Kim made the visit.

North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, said Friday that any progress at the revived talks on the communist nation's nuclear program will depend on the "U.S. attitude," an indication that any breakthrough at the negotiations could be difficult.

In a meeting with visiting members of South Korea's minor opposition Democratic Labor Party, or DLP, Kim also cast doubts on Washington's sincerity in resolving "fundamental problems between North Korea and the U.S.," according to statement on the DLP Web site.

The South Korean delegation, which returned to Seoul on Saturday, said North Korean officials agreed on the need to resume reunion visits for families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North suspended the reunions, which had been held periodically, in anger at South Korea's decision to suspend regular humanitarian aid to the communist nation after its test-firing of missiles in July.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Saturday it will hold strategic talks with U.S. officials on Tuesday, when they are expected to discuss the North Korea nuclear issue.

U.S. undersecretaries of state, Nicholas Burns and Robert Joseph, will be in Seoul next week on an Asian tour, which also includes stops in Tokyo and Beijing, the ministry said.


Associated Press writers Bo-mi Lim in Seoul, South Korea and Hiroko Tabuchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.


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