- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said U.S. officials will contact North Korea's mission at the United Nations to try to renew talks on security. But North Korea is showing no interest, contending that the U.S. proposal for dialogue amounts to a search for a "pretext for an invasion."
Mr. Powell reaffirmed the U.S. offer while airborne with President Bush after a six-day visit to Asia that included stops in South Korea, Japan and China. While in China, Mr. Bush asked President Jiang Zemin to help persuade North Korea to resume discussions with Washington.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Powell did not say when the contact in New York will be made. North Korea's U.N. mission has been the principal point of contact for the two countries for some time.
Last June, when Mr. Bush first proposed resuming Clinton-era security talks with North Korea, Mr. Powell expressed confidence that Pyongyang would accept.
But the North Koreans seem to have dug in their heels, particularly since Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address last month that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's government is part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran.
Personal attacks on Mr. Bush have escalated. A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry, quoted yesterday by the country's official Korean Central News Agency, called Mr. Bush a "politically backward child."
The spokesman, who was unidentified, accused Mr. Bush of slandering the communist state's political system and its "supreme headquarters," a reference to Mr. Kim.
"We are not willing to have contact with [Mr. Bushs] clan, which is trying to change by force of arms the system chosen by the Korean people," the spokesman said.
The goal of the proposed U.S. dialogue, he said, "is to find a pretext for an invasion."
While in South Korea, Mr. Bush minced no words about Mr. Kim, calling his government despotic and questioning whether he cares about his people.
His call to dialogue was aimed primarily at shoring up the U.S. alliance with South Korea, whose president, Kim Dae-jung, has maintained a four-year policy of reaching out to North Korea.
Lately, however, North Korea has been almost as dismissive of Seoul's initiative as it has been of the Bush administration's moves.
After a highly successful North-South summit in Pyongyang in June of 2000, Kim Jong-il has reneged on a promise to visit Seoul and has done little to carry out other agreements. Continuing aid deliveries from the South have not produced a positive response from the North.
Four months after the North-South summit, the Clinton administration and North Korea seemed close to an agreement to curb Pyongyang's programs to develop and export long-range missiles.
That was an issue the Bush administration has hoped to reopen with North Korea, but Pyongyang has shown no interest.
The deteriorating situation has caused alarm in South Korea, particularly among the millions who live just a short distance away from what Mr. Powell calls the North's "huge army."


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