In a first of its kind appeal, North Korea is asking South Korea's help in pressuring the United States to sign a non-aggression treaty with Pyongyang. The plea came as Pyongyang began showing signs of retreating again into its shell, after a brief period of reaching out to the outside world.
The unprecedented plea came Saturday from the official Korea Central News Agency. It called for a "nationwide struggle" by the two Koreas, which are still officially at war, to force Washington to keep its hand out of Korean affairs. It also asked Seoul's help in Pyongyang's repeated call for a non-aggression pact to be signed by the United States and North Korea.
North Korea admitted last month that it had resumed a program to build nuclear weapons, in violation of 1994 accord with Washington. Under that accord, North Korea had agreed to stop atomic weapons development, while a consortium of nations would provide the North with 500,000 tons of heavy oil a year.
The consortium, decided last week in retaliation to halt the fuel oil deliveries.
In another apparent reaction to the cut-off of fuel deliveries, Pyongyang has apparently decided to stop the use of U.S. dollars inside the country. China's Xinhua News Agency quotes a staff member of the Korean Trade Bank in Pyongyang as saying that as of December, hotels, foreign exchange shops and other travel-related services will no longer be permitted to receive American currency.
These latest moves follow a period in which Pyongyang seemed to be moving out of its self-imposed isolation. Among other things, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted for the first time that his country had kidnapped more than a dozen Japanese citizens over the years. Mr. Kim apologized for the abductions, but the Japanese public reacted to the revelation with anger.
Despite the new chill in American-North Korean relations, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has announced that its ambassador here will listen to a plea for leniency from the Japanese wife of an alleged U.S. Army deserter living in North Korea.
Hitomi Soga is to personally appeal to Ambassador Howard Baker to allow her husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, to come to Japan without being charged by the U.S. military with desertion.
Jenkins's wife is one of the Japanese abducted by the North. She and the other four surviving abductees are in Japan on their first visit since their kidnappings decades ago, and Tokyo is making arrangements for them to stay here permanently. The Japanese want the abductees' spouses and children to be allowed to join them in Japan.
A hitch in that plan is the status of Jenkins, who reportedly defected to North Korea in the mid-1960s. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has indicated that he opposes any pardon for Jenkins, but the Pentagon has left the door open a crack, saying no final decision has been made.