North Korea Rejects U.S. Offer to Mediate Nuclear Standoff

The Foreign Ministry accuse the Bush administration of putting on a “deceptive drama” to “fool” the world public.

The statement, issued late Wednesday by the official Korean Central News Agency, accused Washington of trying to disarm the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in the midst of “the most acute military confrontation” with the United States.

Saying that the U.S. demands are a direct assault on Pyongyang’s sovereignty, the statement reiterated past demands for a non-aggression pact and an agreement not to “obstruct” North Korea’s economic development.

“Nobody will be taken in by any tricks employed by the Bush administration. The U.S. can never evade the blame for the present crisis unless it makes a fundamental switchover in its hostile policy towards the DPRK,” the ministry said.

The message comes after President Bush said Tuesday he might revive his administration’s one-time effort to aid North Korea if it abandoned its nuclear program.

However, the North Korean statement said its contacts with the State Department failed to address its demands for ending the crisis.

“What we heard from the U.S. side was simple words that the U.S. had nothing to say about the resumption of dialogue,” it said.

Meanwhile, Washington’s top envoy on North Korea, Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly, held talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Wednesday aimed at finding ways to defuse the Korean nuclear crisis.

China has offered to host direct talks between the United States and North Korea. A longtime ally of North Korea, China spoke out against the North’s decision last week to drop out of a 1968 treaty created to slow the spread of nuclear weapons. Beijing also opposes the North’s development of nuclear weapons, a move Chinese officials say could set off a regional arms race.

Talks are also scheduled to resume between North and South Korea in Seoul next Tuesday. South Korean officials have said they will use the meetings to discuss finding ways to resolve the North’s conflict with the U.S.

On a separate diplomatic front, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov will leave for Pyongyang Thursday, with a stop in Beijing planned along the way. Losyukov is expected to discuss his country’s compromise plan to end the standoff.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was optimistic diplomatic efforts in several capitals, including the Russian mission, would soon ease tensions.

“I personally believe that Russia could play a leading role in defusing the crisis. I am very heartened that Russia is sending an envoy to Pyongyang in the next couple of days and I hope that will start the ball rolling,” he said.

Russia, which has historically good relations with both North and South Korea, supports the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but has warned against putting excessive pressure on Pyongyang.