SEOUL, South Korea – U.S. offers to reopen communication lines with North Korea in order to defuse an increasingly tense nuclear situation are nothing but "deceptive drama" and "pie in the sky," the country's foreign ministry said Wednesday.
The statement, passed along by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), also reiterated Pyongyang's demand for a non-aggression treaty as the only way to end the second North Korean nuclear crisis in the past decade. The comments are just the latest in a series of politically charged words from the regime in order to appeal to public opinion.
The words came as the United States pondered whether to resume food and energy aid to the isolated country if Pyongyang halted its nuclear weapons programs. President Bush has said he will stand for nothing less than complete disarmament.
"The U.S. loudmouthed supply of energy and food aid are like a painted cake pie in the sky as they are possible only after the DPRK is totally disarmed," said the statement, issued late on Wednesday night. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"It is clear that the U.S. talk about dialogue is nothing but a deceptive drama to mislead the world public opinion," the ministry said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer on Wednesday called the foreign ministry statement "an additional unfortunate comment that North Korea has made."
North and South Korea had set dates for high-level talks on Wednesday for later this month, giving new hope for a peaceful solution to a nuclear dispute despite signs that the North has increased military patrols near its border with the South.
U.S. envoy James Kelly also made hopeful comments Wednesday before heading in to meetings in Beijing. He said he was "reassured" by efforts to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons development.
But all this has not stopped the reclusive regime in Pyongyang from continuing its anti-American drumbeat through the state-run media. The country is blaming nuclear proliferation on the United States and accusing Washington of using its weapons to threaten and blackmail other nations into putting pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear arms production.
But North Korea's whining isn't affecting diplomatic moved in the region.
In Seoul, the South Korean government announced that it had agreed with Pyongyang to hold Cabinet-level talks on Jan. 21-24, with North's nuclear weapons programs expected to be on the agenda.
Tensions have been rising since North Korea admitted in October to having a secret nuclear program. Last week, the country announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and threatened to begin testing missiles again.
South Korean officials say they will use all inter-Korean contacts to persuade North Korea to lay down its nuclear arms. The upcoming talks would be the ninth round the two countries have had since a North-South summit in June 2000 and the first since October.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle on Wednesday reiterated his frustration that the administration has "not briefed" members of Congress on the situations in North Korea and Iraq.
"I don't see how Congress can function as a coequal partner if we are locked out of the information that should be provided to us on a regular basis," Daschle said.
Daschle also took a shot at Bush for the about-face on his policy toward North Korea.
"The administration has said that they will not provide incentives or energy or any other carrot to the North Koreans until they comply," he said. "Well, they appear to have changed that."
Daschle did say, however, that he would support the position because "I think it is important to engage the North Koreans."
"But this flip-flopping and this change in position from one day to the next sends a very conflicting and confusing message not only to the North Koreans, but to the entire international community."
Despite the North's loud complaints about U.S. peace efforts, the regime hasn't made any alarming moves on the ground.
The U.S. military has spotted increased patrols by North Korean soldiers over the past week in one area of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula, said Lt. Col. Matthew Margotta, who commands a combined battalion of U.S. and South Korean soldiers.
But the moves in the 2½-mile-wide, 156-mile-long zone were "not alarming, just unusual," and were probably "triggered by a heightening of tensions," Margotta said.
The North Koreans have also occupied a guard tower in the DMZ that hadn't been used in years, he said.
In a speech Wednesday at the Yongsan command headquarters for U.S. troops in South Korea, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun called the U.S.-South Korean alliance the "driving force" for security in the region.
"We can never accept North Korea's nuclear weapons program," Roh said, calling for an international diplomatic effort to defuse the standoff.
The United States keeps 37,000 troops based in South Korea. The accidental killing of two teenage girls by American GIs driving a military vehicle has increased calls that the force be scaled down.
In Beijing, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly went into talks at the Chinese Foreign Ministry optimistic about international efforts to peacefully resolve the confrontation.
China has offered to host negotiations between the United States and North Korea.
"I'm very reassured," said Kelly, who arrived from Seoul on Tuesday night. "We have to keep talking with each other to make sure that things are done in the best possible way."
On Wednesday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, urged Russia to become involved in the diplomatic efforts, saying Moscow could play a "vitally important role."
North Korea is using its state-run news agency to issue daily diatribes against the United States. On Wednesday, KCNA rejected international concern over its nuclear programs and said proliferation was started by the United States.
"In 1945, the U.S. produced three A-bombs and tested one of them in its mainland and dropped the other two on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, inflicting nuclear holocaust on the Japanese for the first time in human history," the dispatch said.
As part of its efforts, Washington has taken a more conciliatory approach.
The Bush administration had been prepared to offer substantial economic benefits for North Korea if it agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities last year but withdrew it after learning that the North Koreans had initiated a uranium-based nuclear weapons program.
In talks earlier this week in Seoul, Kelly indicated the United States might help North Korea meet its energy needs if the nuclear issue is resolved.
Fox News' Julie Asher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.