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N. Korea Increases Anti-American Rhetoric - 2001-12-04

North Korea says Washington should end a "strong-arm" policy directed at the isolated communist state before the two sides resume talks on reducing military forces on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang threatens to build up its military if Washington does not back off. That strong rhetoric from the North is nothing new, but some analysts say the words seem more strident lately.

Commentaries in government-run North Korean news media accuse Washington of using its anti-terrorism fight as an excuse to boost its forces in South Korea. Pyongyang heated up its anti-American rhetoric after Washington sent additional fighter jets to South Korea last month to fill in for a U.S. aircraft carrier normally stationed nearby but that now is helping U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

The commentaries say if Washington was genuinely interested in talks to reduce North Korea's weapons, the Americans would "take a proper attitude" and build an "atmosphere and confidence" for discussions. The North has not responded to a U.S. offer to talk about Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs, and its deployment of military forces near the border with South Korea.

The new verbal attack follows Pyongyang's angry rejection last week of U.S. calls for weapons inspections in North Korea to look for suspected chemical and biological weapons.

Journalist Seo Soomin covers inter-Korean issues for the Korea Times in Seoul, South Korea. She says northern officials may be speaking out because Washington has been so focused on the Afghan war that Korean issues have been given a low priority. And she says Pyongyang is disappointed that last year's groundbreaking visit by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has not brought the political and material benefits North Koreans had hoped for. "Obviously they thought they would receive more aid, and that the U.S. would lessen economic sanctions, and they thought those things would come pretty quick," she said.

Efforts to improve North South relations have stalled this year after a series of exchanges in 2000 raised hopes of reconciliation between the two sides.

The Korean peninsula remains technically at war after a truce, rather than a peace treaty ended fighting in the Korean War in the early 1950s. During that war, China backed the North and the United States backed the South.