SEOUL - North Korea said on Tuesday a recent major policy speech by Washington's
top arms negotiator was "a sheer lie and the height of baseness," but Pyongyang
was still ready to talk to the United States about security.
In an address in Seoul on August 29, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton branded North Korea the world's foremost peddler of ballistic missile technology and said the communist state needed drastic reforms to survive.
Bolton also said President Bush's description of North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran was factually correct rather than a mere rhetorical flourish.
"Bolton is getting overheated in the smear campaign and the moves to stifle the DPRK as the worst type of the U.S. hawkish hard-liner," said the ruling party's newspaper, Rodong Sinmun.
The official KCNA news agency published the daily's commentary. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
KCNA said Bolton had groundlessly charged North Korea with possessing biological weapons and smuggling missiles.
"Rodong Sinmun today in a signed commentary dismisses this as a sheer lie and the height of baselessness and shamelessness," the agency said.
Bolton, who advises Secretary of State Colin Powell on arms control and international security, gave a detailed account in his speech of what he said was North Korea's active program to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear arms. Evidence was compelling but had to remain secret.
Bolton criticized North Korea's leadership under Kim Jong-il but underscored Washington's readiness to start talks.
Rodong Sinmun said Bolton was misleading the public by trying to portray the North as a security concern and insisting Pyongyang allow international nuclear inspections.
"This is nothing but a silly dream," the daily said. "His demeanor only damages his image as a senior diplomat."
Intriguingly, amid the bluster and inventive invective, the newspaper said North Korea had repeatedly said it was ready to talk to the United States about security "if its administration is willing to abandon its hostile policy."
"Bolton is well advised to behave himself, if he is interested in the DPRK-U.S. dialogue," it said.
Bolton's remarks came at a sensitive time for diplomacy on the divided Korean peninsula. There is a presidential election in the South in December and the impoverished North has been reaching out as it embarks on tentative economic reforms.
Washington is warily watching and weighing dialogue with the North involving China, Russia, Japan and South Korea as it prepares for its own possible talks. No date has been set yet.
Speaking to a symposium of Asian and European journalists, many skeptical about North Korea's intentions, ruling party presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun, said dialogue would help bring North Korea out into the international community.
"North Korea is irrational and dangerous, but we cannot say once and for all it will always be," Roh said when asked whether the South's aid prolonged the life of an unsavory government.
"I'm convinced North Korea wants to develop itself and wants to participate in the international community," he said.
(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert)
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd