Powell calls North Korea a 'terrorist state' while in Asia

Monday, October 25, 2004

TOKYO -- Secretary of State Colin Powell pressed North Korea on Sunday to return to nuclear disarmament talks even as he branded the communist country a "terrorist state" that has "no respect for human rights."

Powell's strong comments came after North Korea accused the United States of "evermore hostile acts," including U.S. participation in a multinational naval exercise set to begin today off the Japanese coast.

The maneuvers are part of an effort to curb the smuggling of missiles and nuclear technology on the high seas.

North Korea dominated Powell's discussions in Japan with Prime Minister Junichiro and other officials. Later, Powell flew to China where he planned talks today with President Hu Jintao on North Korea, Taiwan and other issues.

Powell's final stop during his trip to East Asia will be South Korea.

At a news conference, Powell gave assurances that President Bush seeks a peaceful solution to the long-running impasse over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

The United States is seeking the permanent dismantling of these programs. Three meetings involving the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia have been held in China, with little evidence of progress.

Blaming what it said were hostile U.S. policies, North Korea boycotted a meeting that was to have been held in September. Powell said it was urgent to resume the talks.

Responding to North Korea's wariness about the naval exercises, Powell said, "The only thing North Korea should be concerned about is whether or not they're going to be caught in the act of participating in ... illicit traffic. This is not hostile to any nation that is acting in an appropriate manner."

In the past, North Korea has exported missiles to the Middle East.

The United States, Japan and seven other countries will participate in the naval exercise; some 14 more nations will serve as observers.

The U.S. undersecretary for arms control, John Bolton, will monitor the exercises on Tuesday. Long an outspoken critic of North Korea, he was once derided by officials there as "human scum."

North Korea says U.S. hostile intent also was reflected in a human rights law that was signed by President Bush last week.

The law urges North Korea to allow freedom of speech and religion and calls for the appointment by the president of a human rights monitor for North Korea. In the absence of a reduction in rights abuses, the law would forbid U.S. assistance to North Korea except for humanitarian purposes.

Interviewed by Japanese journalists, Powell said the desperation of North Koreans is apparent by the number of them who jump over fences and penetrate embassy compounds "to get away from this regime that made life so difficult for them -- not only economically difficult but by having no respect for human rights."

He also highlighted North Korea's role in kidnaping Japanese citizens and smuggling them into North Korea. "A state did this, not terrorists, but a state, a terrorist state did this," Powell said.

Powell's comments on North Korea were unsually harsh. The administration normally has refrained from such rhetoric as it has pursued renewed North Korean participation in the six-party talks.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has said direct U.S.-North Korea talks are the best way to reach a settlement. Powell said North Korea itself is "desperate" for that kind of negotiation.

"I think anybody who would approach the problem that way, after we have gotten the six-party framework moving forward, will be disappointed, whether it's Mr. Kerry or anybody else," Powell said.

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