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Old 15 Jan 2005, 09:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default North Korea: U.S. a 'nuclear criminal'

North Korea: U.S. a 'nuclear criminal'
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) A day after indicating a willingness to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks, North Korea returned to its usual anti-American rhetoric Saturday, accusing the United States of being a "nuclear criminal" with double standards.
North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun accused Washington of "conniving at, patronizing and cooperating with the pro-American forces" in Israel, Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear arms while pressuring North Korea to abandon its program.

"The U.S. policy of double standards assumes extremely partial and aggressive nature," the newspaper said.

The report also denied that the North is running a clandestine uranium enrichment program, as the United States claims, in addition to its plutonium-based weapons program.

The United States, North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have struggled for months to convene a fourth round of talks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs. Previous rounds, held in Beijing, ended without breakthroughs.

President Bush labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and prewar Iraq. Experts say the isolated North may already possess two or three nuclear bombs, in addition to fuel that could produce several more.

In an unusual overture Friday, however, the reclusive North offered to become a "friend" of the United States if Washington did not make inflammatory remarks about leader Kim Jong Il's regime.

The softened rhetoric was highly unusual, as North Korean officials typically load their speech with harsh anti-American criticism, and followed a visit this week to Pyongyang by a bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation described by the Americans as a success.

"They are ready to get back to substantive discussions," Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., who led the delegation, said Saturday at a news conference in Beijing. "Nothing is off the table."

Weldon said they met with North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam; Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun; and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan during their three-day visit, and the meetings were more positive than expected.

"Without any hesitation, they have agreed that there will be a way in which the end result would result in them giving up their nuclear capability," Weldon said. "That's exactly what it was, overwhelmingly positive beyond our expectations."

Weldon said earlier his delegation gave North Korea reassurances that Washington did not want a regime change in Pyongyang and was not planning to launch pre-emptive attacks. North Korea has said it needs a nuclear deterrent against U.S. invasion after the Iraq war.

The nuclear dispute erupted in late 2002 when Washington accused North Korea of running a uranium enrichment program in violation of international nonproliferation accords and cut off free oil shipments. North Korea denied the claim, quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and restarted its mothballed plutonium weapons program.

source: usatoday.com
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