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North Korea Seeks Conditions for Nuclear Talks - 2003-08-03

Just days after saying it would participate in multi-lateral talks about its nuclear-weapons program, North Korea is trying to set conditions for the discussions.

North Korea says an American envoy who criticized the country and its leader will not be welcome at the negotiating table.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency says Pyongyang will refuse to deal with Undersecretary of State John Bolton. During a speech last week in South Korea, the U.S. official described North Korea as a "hellish nightmare." He called its leader, Kim Jong Il, a "tyrannical dictator."

In response, the North Korean news agency referred to Mr. Bolton as "human scum and a bloodsucker" who suffers a "psychopathological condition." But the report said Pyongyang was still committed to participating in talks on the nuclear issue.

Washington and Pyongyang confirmed Friday that they had agreed to six-way talks. The other participants will be China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. No dates or venue for the talks have been announced, but many news reports say they will be held next month in Beijing.

The announcement of the talks is the first breakthrough after months of tension since North Korea told the United States it was pursuing a nuclear-weapons program in violation of international accords.

Meanwhile, the one-party state held elections Sunday for a new parliament and regional assemblies. Leader Kim Jong Il is on the ballot and certain to be re-elected.

The elections could signal a shuffling of senior officials. In the 1998 elections, several elderly officials were pushed to the side as Mr. Kim consolidated control following the death of North Korea's former leader, his father Kim Il-sung, four years earlier.

In Japan, a major newspaper said Tokyo and Washington are thinking about forming a multi-national inspection team to ensure that North Korea scraps its nuclear-weapons program.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, quoting unnamed U.S. and Japanese sources, said the team would include experts from the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. They would inspect North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex and other related facilities where it is believed Pyongyang is working to develop nuclear weapons.