Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - Page 4 News List

N Korean assembly pans Obama policy

‘HOSTILE’ Pyongyang said US President Barack Obama’s administration was no better than that of former president Bush after a change in policy on using nuclear weapons

AP , SEOUL

North Korea denounced US President Barack Obama’s new nuclear stance as “hostile” and vowed to continue expanding its atomic arsenal as the country’s rubber-stamp parliament held an annual session focused on rescuing the tattered economy.

Obama earlier this week pledged to resist using nuclear weapons against nations that comply with nonproliferation standards — exempting North Korea and Iran from the new policy. Miffed by Obama’s words, North Korea accused his government of being no better than the administration of former US president George W. Bush, “hell-bent on posing a nuclear threat” to North Korea.

“As long as the US nuclear threat persists, [North Korea] will increase and update various type nuclear weapons as its deterrent in such a manner as it deems necessary in the days ahead,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Friday.

Washington and other regional powers have been trying to coax North Korea back to disarmament talks it walked out of last year, but the ministry was quoted as saying Obama’s new policy “chilled the hard-won atmosphere for the resumption of the talks.”

North Korea blames the US as a main reason for driving Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The US has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North. The two Koreas officially remain in a state of war because their 1950 to 1953 conflict did not end with a peace treaty but, rather, a truce.

Last year’s gathering of the parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, marked leader Kim Jong-il’s triumphant return to the public eye after months out of sight amid rumors he had suffered a stroke in 2008, but there was no sign on Friday of Kim — who has skipped legislative sessions in the past — in reports issued by KCNA.

State TV did not show any footage from the session presided over by North Korea’s premier, and Kim’s name was not in a list of key participants.

Legislators discussed plans for economic development, the state budget, constitutional revisions and personnel appointments, it said. The most important item on the agenda involved “stepping up the technological upgrading and modernizing of the national economy,” KCNA said.

The session took place amid speculation that Kim would promote officials to help solidify a plan to hand over power to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

There are persistent questions about the health of the autocratic ruler, who appears to be undergoing kidney dialysis every two weeks, according to Nam Sung-wook, head of the security think tank affiliated with South Korea’s top spy agency. Kim also is believed to have chronic heart disease and diabetes.

Students frolicked at “dancing parties” held on Friday in the capital and across the country in honor of the 17th anniversary of Kim’s selection as the nation’s leader, KCNA said.

“Youth and students merrily danced to the tune of Glory to General, Confetti of Best Wishes in the dancing places in Pyongyang including the plazas of the Party Founding Memorial Tower, the April 25 House of Culture and the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium,” the report said.

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