- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2005

SEOUL (AP) — A day after reportedly indicating a willingness to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks, North Korea returned to its usual anti-American rhetoric yesterday, 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.

In an unusual overture Friday, 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, according to a group of U.S. congressmen who had just visited the communist state.

Mr. Kim shunned the delegation, which was forced to meet with his deputies.

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.

Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and a member of the congressional group, 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.

The North Korean report yesterday did not say whether Pyongyang was willing to rejoin negotiations with the United States and four other regional powers, as it had implied to the visiting congressmen.

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 Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarted its mothballed plutonium weapons program.

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