- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

North Korea yesterday vowed to "smash U.S. nuclear maniacs" in a "holy war" and threatened to resume tests of long-range missiles capable of reaching Hawaii and America's West Coast.
More than a million North Koreans yesterday packed into a square in central Pyongyang decorated with anti-American banners and huge portraits of President Kim Jong-il to hear political leaders rail against U.S. policies toward the reclusive Stalinist state.
"If the United States brings dark clouds of war to hang over this land, the army and the people of [North Korea] will remove the land of the United States from the Earth and root out the very source of evil and war," one leader told the crowd, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Pyongyang's belligerent messages included threats to begin reprocessing thousands of spent fuel rods containing plutonium from its nuclear reactors to make atomic bombs.
The North Korean announcements undercut three days of diplomatic talks in Santa Fe, N.M., between a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a senior North Korean official.
While Bill Richardson, a former Clinton administration official and now governor of New Mexico, described the talks as "positive," Bush administration officials were unimpressed.
"In New Mexico, North Korea stated its willingness to have a dialogue. Unfortunately, the North Korean delegates did not address the issues of concern to the international community," a senior Bush administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
North Korea's threats yesterday follow its withdrawal on Friday from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a pact with 188 nations that monitors and enforces restrictions on the development of nuclear weapons.
Said State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck: "While the delegates were in New Mexico, North Korea continued to take steps in the wrong direction, especially their withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to threaten further steps such as missile testing, that would raise tensions with the international community."
North Korea poses a direct threat to the U.S. mainland, which it can reach with long-range missiles. In 1998, the North Koreans test-fired a medium-range, three-stage Taepo Dong-1 rocket over Japan's main island of Honshu that landed in the Pacific Ocean. The Pentagon believes that Pyongyang is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Taepo Dong-2, that could reach Alaska, Hawaii and California.
Some military experts say those missiles will not be operational until 2015; others say they may be ready as early as 2005. But a handful say secret missile development could already have taken place. North Korea recently admitted that it had resumed its secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement with the United States.
The threat of new missile tests came from the North's ambassador to China, Choe Jin Su, who said tests could resume if the United States does not take steps to improve relations.
"Because all agreements have been nullified by the United States' side, we believe we cannot go along with the self-imposed missile moratorium any longer," Mr. Choe said in Beijing. "The development, testing, deployment and export of our missiles entirely belongs to our sovereignty."
Mr. Choe said the United States has violated a pact to supply oil to North Korea, thus making moot all other agreements between the two countries.
The Bush administration last month cut off oil shipments promised in a 1994 deal in which the Clinton administration pledged oil deliveries and two light-water nuclear reactors in return for North Korea shutting down its nuclear facility in Yongbyon. In October, North Korea acknowledged it has secretly continued the development of nuclear weapons, prompting the United States to nix the deal.
"The moratorium on missile test firing is no exception now that the United States has made all agreements reached between the United States and DPRK invalid," Mr. Choe said. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In New Mexico, Mr. Richardson said North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador, Han Song Ryol, assured him the North wanted improved ties with the United States and had no plans to build a nuclear bomb, although experts say Pyongyang already has one or two atomic weapons.
"He told me that in a dialogue with the United States, North Korea would discuss America's concerns over verifying its nuclear program. I think that's positive," Mr. Richardson said. "The next step after my talks is for official channels to open" between North Korea and the United States.
The Bush administration, which did not request Mr. Richardson to hold the talks, said the former U.N. ambassador had reported his efforts to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
"The United States has made clear that we are prepared to talk to North Korea about its willingness to meet its obligations to the international community," Miss Beck said. "In New Mexico, North Korea did state its willingness to have a dialogue. We will look carefully at everything the North Koreans said in New Mexico. The usual channels of communications remain open."
Son Mun-San, an envoy at the North Korean Embassy in Vienna, Austria home to the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the Yongbyon facility would start producing electricity in a few weeks.
The IAEA had been monitoring the Yongbyon facility for eight years when North Korea decided during the current crisis to expel its monitors and turn off surveillance equipment.
North Korea reportedly has unsealed thousands of spent fuel rods in a cooling pond at Yongbyon from which plutonium for making nuclear warheads could be extracted within months.
The IAEA has insisted the reprocessing facility at Yongbyon is "irrelevant" to North Korea's electricity needs. North Korea calls the IAEA a "tool" of the United States.
Since the nuclear standoff resumed, the North has removed seals placed on the Yongbyon facility by IAEA monitors and cameras within the facility and expelled two inspectors as part of its renunciation of the 1994 deal with the United States.
The United States has sought to take a diplomatic tone with North Korea and its chief ally, China. On Friday, President Bush assured Chinese President Jiang Zemin that Washington had no "hostile" intent toward North Korea.
This article is based in part on wire service reports

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