Sun, Feb 13, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US rejects direct talks with Pyongyang

TENSION North Korean officials said that six-nation talks were over and that the question is whether the US intends an attack to topple Kim Jong-il's regime

AP , SEOUL

North Korea yesterday urged its impoverished people to rally around Stalinist leader Kim Jong-il, after Washington rebuffed the communist North's demand that the sides hold bilateral talks to curb nuclear tension.

Pyongyang's state-run daily Rodong Sinmun, a must read for all North Koreans, allotted the whole front page of yesterday's edition to an editorial that said "the single-minded unity serves as the strongest weapon," said the official news agency KCNA.

"At a time like today, when the situation gets tense, no task is more important than to strengthen our single-minded unity," the editorial said.

Minju Joson, another state-run daily, said that "devotedly protecting the leader is our life and soul."

The surge in communist rhetoric seeking to inspire a sense of crisis and boost loyalty followed North Korea's announcement on Thursday that the reclusive communist country has nuclear weapons for self-defense.

With that declaration, Kim -- who rules his country like one vast plantation with multitudes toiling in collective farms under the eyes of the military -- brandished his strongest diplomatic card yet and dramatically escalated the nuclear standoff with Washington and its allies.

It remained unclear whether North Korea intended to remain a nuclear power or was trying to use the statement as a bargaining chip to win aid, diplomatic recognition and a nonaggression treaty with Washington -- measures that the North believes will guarantee the survival of Kim's regime.

As the standoff intensified between Pyongyang and Washington, newspapers in South Korea yesterday urged the government to stand firm against North Korea.

"We should be resolute against any nuclear problems that decisively threaten our national security," the mass-circulation JoongAng Daily said in an editorial. "Seoul and Washington should closely cooperate in finding out the North's intention."

In its statement on Thursday, North Korea said it would stay away indefinitely from six-nation nuclear talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs until Washington changes what it called the US' "hostile" policy toward the isolated country. On Friday, its UN diplomat told South Korea's Hankyoreh newspaper that if Washington agreed to bilateral negotiations it would take that as a signal for a changing US policy toward the North.

The White House rebuffed such a suggestion, and insisted on six-nation talks, which also include Russia, China, Japan and South Korea, countries growing increasingly frustrated with North Korea's recalcitrance in the two-year-old standoff.

Shortly after the US rebuttal, the North Korean diplomat, Han Song-ryol, said that six-nation talks were over and that the real issue is whether the US intends to attack the reclusive nation to topple Kim's regime.

"Six-party talks is old story. No more," Han said in English during a brief interview with Associated Press Television News.

The diplomat was also pessimistic when asked whether Pyongyang would engage in talks if the US showed a more positive attitude.

"We do not expect any further positive measures from the US side," Han said. "We have seen already, fully, and we [have] made already [our] decision."

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