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US brushes off North Korea's overtures

Many see Pyongyang's recent friendly gestures as a tactical move. The US moved Tuesday to freeze the assets of two North Korean entities, while South Korea accused the North of unleashing a deadly flash flood.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 9, 2009



Beijing

North Korea celebrated its 61st anniversary Wednesday, as diplomats in neighboring countries and in Washington puzzled over ways to bring the defiant Communist nation back to stalled talks about its nuclear program.

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North Korea "is now towering high as a political, ideological, military and scientific, and technological power, an envy of the whole world," the country's Prime Minister Kim Yong-il said, according to the official news agency.

In its latest bid to assert such a status, Pyongyang last week told the United Nations that it had nearly completed the process of uranium enrichment, which would give it a second way to make nuclear weapons.

In a letter to the head of the UN Security Council, North Korea said it was "prepared for both dialogue and sanctions," but warned that if sanctions stayed in place, it would "respond with bolstering our nuclear deterrence."

The UN imposed an arms embargo and financial sanctions on Pyongyang in June, following its test of a plutonium-based nuclear device and the earlier launch of a controversial long-range missile.

Pyongyang blows hot and cold

The announcement, and its angry tone, contrasted with conciliatory moves that the North Korean authorities had made in previous weeks.

The government freed two American TV journalists whom it had detained, along with five South Korean citizens, it restarted talks with South Korea on reunification of families divided by the Korean war, and normalized traffic into an industrial park run jointly with the South.

North Korean diplomats also traveled to Santa Fe in August to visit Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico who has taken special interest in relations with Pyongyang, apparently to press their case for direct bilateral talks with Washington.

The US special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, insisted repeatedly on his tour of Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo, which he wrapped up Tuesday, that the United States would hold bilateral talks, but only in the context of the six-party negotiations, which also include China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.

North Korea pulled out of those negotiations in April, protesting international condemnation of its missile test. China, which leads the talks, and the US are seeking ways of restarting them.

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