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US Expects More Nuclear Talks Despite North Korean Comments - 2004-08-24

Bush administration officials say they expect another round of Chinese-hosted six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program next month despite Pyongyang's assertion that U.S. policies make negotiations impossible.

U.S. diplomats say they're still operating on the assumption that the six-party talks will resume next month despite two days of angry rhetoric from North Korea, including personal attacks on President Bush.

The official media of the reclusive communist state continued the verbal assault Tuesday, calling Mr. Bush a "fascist tyrant" and saying it is "impossible" to have further negotiations on the nuclear issue, because of hostile U.S. policies.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli rejected the comments about the president, saying they are inappropriate to diplomatic discourse.

He said the United States remains focused on trying to address and eliminate the problem posed by the North Korean nuclear program in a multi-lateral context.

"That's where our focus is," he said. "It's not on rhetorical flourishes or outbursts. It's on steady, consistent, dedicated work to bring about the end of the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula."

Policy analysts say the North Korean outburst may have been triggered by a campaign speech by President Bush last week in which he said the United States and other parties to the negotiations, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, were pushing "the tyrant," a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, to disarm.

The Pyongyang media in turn accused Mr. Bush of trying to topple the legitimate government of North Korea, and said, among other things, that his aides and associates were "political gangsters."

But a senior U.S. diplomat who spoke to reporters here said nothing North Korea has said in recent days definitively precludes its participation in another round of six-party talks, even though it could easily have made such a statement.

All the parties agreed, at the end of the last round of discussions in Beijing in June, to convene again before the end of September, first at a working-group level and then in a plenary session.

The United States has said it is willing to be part of multi-lateral guarantees for North Korea's security in the context of an agreement for the complete and verifiable dismantling of its nuclear weapons program.

U.S. officials have said the talks have made some progress but that obstacles remain, including, they say, North Korea's refusal to acknowledge having an enriched-uranium weapons project along with its admitted plutonium-based program.