Thursday, July 27, 2006

DPRK Says It Will Bolster Nuclear WeaponsProgram; Calls Rice "Political Imbecile"

N. Korea says it will bolster nuclear weapons as Malaysian meeting nears

7/26/2006 2:51 PM ET

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's defense minister said his country will strengthen its nuclear weapons program in response to U.N. sanctions and American hostility, the North's official news agency reported Wednesday.

North Korea will upgrade its arsenal "in every way by employing all possible means and methods'' and will greet any aggressors with "all-out do-or-die resistance and unprecedented devastating strikes,'' Kim Il Chol said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Meanwhile, a top American diplomat said the United States would try to hold a regional security meeting in Malaysia if North Korea continues to boycott six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

If North Korea is willing, "we could have a six-party informal" meeting on the communist state's disputed nuclear weapons program, said Christopher Hill, chief U.S. negotiator on the issue.

"If they don't want (to) ... we will have some kind of multilateral meeting to discuss security issues in Northeast Asia. But it won't be discussing six-party talks. It will be discussing broader and more future-type issues."

The United States and others have been urging North Korea to end its nine-month-old boycott of negotiations intended to offer Pyongyang security assurances and aid in exchange for giving up its nuclear program.

They hoped that the talks between the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia could be held on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting Thursday and Friday.

But Kim, speaking at a gathering to mark the 53rd anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, said strengthening North Korea's nuclear weapons program is necessary to counter the United States' "extremely hostile act and the irresponsibility of the U.N. Security Council.''

North Korea fired seven missiles in early July, including at least one believed capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. International condemnation prompted the Security Council to adopt a resolution sanctioning North Korea and banning member states from missile-related dealings with the communist country.

Kim warned that the U.N. resolution will not force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. North Korea ``can survive without sweets, but not without bullets,'' he said.

The communist state has boycotted the talks since November to protest a U.S. crackdown on its alleged financial wrongdoing. Washington has imposed sanctions on Macau-based Banco Delta Asia and several North Korean companies it said were involved in counterfeiting, money laundering and funding weapons proliferation.

The Bank of China since has frozen North Korean assets, earning praise from the White House. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday the United States was encouraged that China "really has now accepted some responsibility for the situation, as has South Korea."

"And you've seen both countries starting to assert pressure on the government in Pyongyang because they want them to return (to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks)," Snow said.

Pyongyang is demanding that the United States lift the financial restrictions against it before rejoining the six-party talks.

The meeting in Malaysia, being hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, marks the first time the six countries have gathered at the same venue since North Korea test-fired seven missiles on July 5.

The tests prompted fresh calls for resuming the six-party talks in hopes of persuading the communist regime to disarm in exchange for economic aid and security assurances.

"Everybody would like a six-party informal, all five of us want a six-party informal," Hill said.

"North Korea is now at a crossroad," said South Korea's top nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo, after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.

Chun indicated that further punitive measures could be taken against Pyongyang if it still refused to return to talks, following a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned the missile tests and ban missile-related dealings with North Korea.

North Korea's delegation, led by its Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, is scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday and likely will meet with Chinese and South Korean officials.

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Tuesday July 25, 12:20 PM

North Korea hits out at "imbecile" Rice ahead of ASEAN meeting


North Korea has defended its missile launches ahead of an Asian security forum expected to focus on them, describing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a "political imbecile" for criticising the tests.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) accused Rice, who called North Korea a "completely irresponsible" and
"dangerous" state for test-firing seven ballistic missiles on July 5, of distorting the facts.

However, the communist state also came in for criticism from a United Nations official who said the launches had prompted a cutback in food aid.

Rice and her North Korean counterpart Paek Nam-Sun are due to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in Kuala Lumpur Friday amid international tensions over the missile tests.

"Obviously, Rice made such an outcry in a bid to justify the US hostile policy to pressurize the DPRK (North Korea) with the ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum at hand and draw regional countries into its pressure campaign," KCNA said in a commentary late Monday.

"Her remarks are nothing but a sheer distortion of the reality which can convince no one."

The news agency said the North is under threat of attack from "the worst gangsters in the world" after the Bush administration listed it as part of an "axis of evil."

"It was none other than Rice who let loose a spate of such piffle over the launch of a few missiles as part of military training to cope with the US reckless moves for aggression and war," KCNA said.

"This cannot be construed otherwise than an outburst made by a political imbecile."

The North's test-firing of the seven missiles, which splashed down in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), earned a unanimous rebuke from the United Nations Security Council -- one immediately rejected by Pyongyang.

The North also rejected Rice's claims that its tests had been reckless, saying it had "launched missiles only after airspace, land and waters of the sea had been confirmed to be completely safe."

In Kuala Lumpur the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea said Monday the missile launches were "irresponsible" and had affected goodwill and aid for the North.

"The acts, particularly the missile launch, have ultimately impacted upon human rights, because they have led to a certain reaction from neighbours in terms of cutback on food and fertiliser aid," Vitit Muntarbhorn told reporters.

Japan has already banned a major North Korean ferry link, visits by diplomats and charter flights in response to the missile tests, while South Korea has suspended shipments of rice and fertiliser.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Monday the two Koreas would meet on the sidelines of the Asian forum this week but the North was unwilling to join six-nation talks on its nuclear programme.

The talks ground to a halt in November over Pyongyang's objections to financial sanctions imposed by Washington.

"I think they feel that the sanctions, the banks, the embargo on the cash transactions is hurting them a lot," Syed Hamid said. "So all these things need to be addressed in order to bring all the parties back to talking."

Before its latest boycott, the North shunned the six-party talks for five months after Rice called North Korea an "outpost of tyranny" in February 2005.

The North, though thin-skinned when criticized, has its own robust line in insults. In 2003 it described John Bolton, then the top US anti-proliferation official, as "human scum" for criticizing the regime of Kim Jong-Il.

Later the same year it said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who branded North Korea an "evil regime", was a "human butcher" who put Hitler in the shade.

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