Tue, May 04, 2004 - Page 5 News List

N Korean media reports Kim Jong-il sighting

`POISON DWARF' The nation's reclusive leader is alive and kicking, according to state-run KNCA, and still mad at the US despite its offer of aid


North Korea's leader made his first appearance since last month's deadly train explosion, according to official media that also kept up rhetorical attacks against Washington despite a US offer of emergency aid.

Kim Jong-il inspected a military unit and met soldiers, the official KCNA news agency said in a report on yesterday that did not mention when the inspection by the elusive leader took place.

Kim was "satisfied to see all officers and men of the unit ... capable of successfully undertaking any combat duty under any circumstances," KCNA said.

As the US awaited word on whether Pyongyang would accept the US offer of help, the North denounced Washington's decision to keep its listing of the North as a state sponsor of terrorism.

In its annual report on terrorism last week, the US State Department left unchanged its list of seven state sponsors, including North Korea. It said the seven had "not taken substantial steps to cooperate in efforts to combat international terrorism."

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman told KCNA: "This once again convinces us that the hostile policy of the Bush administration towards the DPRK remains unchanged."

DPRK is the short hand for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The abduction of Japanese cited as grounds for the decision is a bilateral issue that has been resolved with Tokyo, the spokesman said. Tokyo does not share that view.

The report of Kim's appearance came 11 days after the train explosion in the North that killed at least 161 people the day Kim returned by rail from talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

KCNA did not mention the blast nor explain Kim's absence from public view. The state media had remained silent during Kim's secretive China visit, not reporting on the trip until after he had returned to the North early on April 22.

He was presumed to have passed through the town of Ryongchon on his way home. An explosion at the town's rail station some hours later rocked a 4km radius area and killed at least 161 people and injured 1,300.

The North accepted and gave thanks for offers of help from the South, other countries and international aid organizations.

The international offer of assistance also includes proposals to send medical supplies and personnel from the US, which is in a standoff with the North over its nuclear arms aims.

After three rounds of talks spread out over more than year of trying to push negotiations on the nuclear problem, junior North Korean and US negotiators will meet representatives from South Korean, China, Japan and Russia next week in Beijing.

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