North Korea yesterday threatened to employ a pre-emptive attack, while also claiming it was committed to the six-party talks.
The North poured out anti-US rhetoric -- a tactic it has used in the past before entering negotiations -- claiming that Washington's "hostile policies" led it to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent, and warning against any attack to dislodge its leadership.
"The United States should be aware that the choice of a pre-emptive attack is not only theirs," the North's official news agency quoted the Cabinet newspaper Minju Joson as saying. "To stand against force with force is our unswerving method of response."
The commentary came amid a flurry of contacts aimed at convincing the North to resume six-nation talks, suspended since the third round ended last June, on its nuclear program.
Washington is awaiting a response to an overture it made May 13 -- days after the North announced it had removed fuel rods from a reactor, a possible step toward extracting weapons-grade plutonium -- at North Korea's office at the UN.
South Korea repeatedly raised the nuclear issue last week during its first face-to-face talks with the North in 10 months. Pyongyang refused to allow a mention of the issue in a final joint statement, but it agreed to follow-up meetings.
The two countries were holding talks yesterday in the North Korean border village of Kaesong on working out details of a South Korean delegation's visit to Pyongyang next month for the fifth anniversary of a historic summit accord.
There have been reports that President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) may be arranging a visit to Pyongyang. South Korean opposition leader Park Geun-hye met with Hu on Tuesday, and the South's Yonhap news agency quoted Hu as saying it will take time to overcome the mistrust between the North and the US.
"There would be a degree of difficulty in resuming the six-nation talks for a while," Hu was quoted as saying. "In recent days, North Korea and the United States have been sending positive messages. This looks like evidence that the two countries haven't completely shut their doors to dialogue and negotiations."
Yonhap also reported that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will meet with Bush in Washington on June 10 to discuss ways to bring the North back to nuclear disarmament talks. Roh's office wouldn't confirm the report.
North Korea on Tuesday repeated claims that its nuclear weapons protect regional peace.
"It is in the East Asian region, including the Korean Peninsula, where the US moves for vicious attacks and war ... are carried out most seriously," the Minju Joson said. "It is our nuclear deterrent that basically guarantees peace and stability."
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