- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

UPDATED:

PHUKET, Thailand | A defiant North Korea received almost universal reprimand at an Asian security summit Thursday for refusing to return to nuclear negotiations — a rare development that prompted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to conclude that Pyongyang “has no friends left” to defend it.

U.S. and North Korean diplomats also got entangled in a brief diplomatic imbroglio at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Thailand when they found themselves competing for the same stage to address the media.

North Korean media called Mrs. Clinton - who earlier this week referred to the Pyongyang government as a “spoiled child” - a “funny lady” and made fun of her appearance.

“Unfortunately, the North Korean delegation offered only an insistent refusal to recognize that North Korea has been on the wrong course,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters. “In their presentation today, they evinced no willingness to pursue the path of denuclearization, and that was troubling.”

The secretary said countries from throughout Asia - most importantly, trusted North Korean ally China - as well as Europe and Russia, made it clear to Pyongyang that it has “no place to go.”

“They have no friends left that will protect them from the international community’s efforts to move toward denuclearization,” she said.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration is willing to offer economic and political incentives to the North if it scraps its nuclear program, in what U.S. officials called a “comprehensive package.”

However, a spokesman for the North Korean delegation, which was led by a mid-level diplomat at the foreign ministers’ meeting, made it clear to reporters that his government has no intention of returning to six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear efforts.

“The six-party talks are already dead,” roving ambassador Ri Hung-sik said of the negotiations, which, in addition to the U.S. and North Korea, include China, South Korean, Japan and Russia.

“Hearing about the comprehensive package, I should say this is basically nonsense,” Mr. Ri said, accusing Washington of having a “deep-rooted hostile policy” toward his country.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang released a statement personally attacking Mrs. Clinton, who on Monday compared North Korea to a “spoiled child” and “unruly teenager” in constant need of attention.

The North’s statement called Mrs. Clinton “a funny lady” and her remarks “vulgar.”

“Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping,” a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.

Mrs. Clinton said that Washington will now focus exclusively on implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which imposed financial and trade sanctions on the North and called on countries to interdict ships if they are believed to be carrying suspicious North Korean cargo.

Minutes before Mrs. Clinton held her press conference in the Thai resort city of Phuket, the North Korean delegation wanted to take the stage where she was about to speak but was stopped by the secretary’s aides.

The Americans had reserved the briefing room from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., but Mrs. Clinton did not show up until after 2 p.m., because the ASEAN meetings ran longer than scheduled. In the meantime, the North Koreans had reserved the 1:30 p.m.-2 p.m. slot and appeared on time.

Because the stage had been set for Mrs. Clinton, her aides were reluctant to let the North Koreans go before her. After they said they only needed a few minutes, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly agreed to let them go ahead.

However, after huddling behind the stage, the North Koreans held their press conference by the concierge desk of the hotel where the ASEAN summit took place.

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