SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) demanded Wednesday that the United States apologize for designating the communist state as an "outpost of tyranny" and it threatened to resume long-range missile tests.
However, the North also held out the possibility of returning to nuclear disarmament talks if Washington agrees to coexist with the communist country.
North Korea declared on Feb. 10 that it had nuclear weapons and was boycotting six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear ambitions.
At the time, it cited Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's (search) designation of North Korea as one of the "outposts of tyranny," during her Senate confirmation in January. The North said that statement, which it attributed to President Bush, was evidence that Washington has not abandoned its "hostile" policy toward North Korea since the U.S. leader lumped it in an "axis of evil" (search) with Iran and prewar Iraq.
"The U.S. should apologize for his above-said remarks and withdraw them, renounce its hostile policy aimed at a regime change in the DPRK (search) and clarify its political willingness to coexist with the DPRK in peace and show it in practice," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a memorandum, using the acronym of the country's formal name -- Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The memorandum -- which was summarized in an English-language dispatch by the North's official news agency, KCNA -- said North Korea "will go to the talks any time if the U.S. takes a trustworthy sincere attitude and moves to provide conditions and justification for the resumption of the six-party talks."
The original Korean-language statement also said North Korea no longer felt bound by its 1999 moratorium on missile tests, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
North Korea announced its missile moratorium in September 1999 while it was negotiating nonproliferation terms with the administration of then-President Clinton.
"Dialogue between the United States and North Korea has been completely blocked since Bush took office in 2001," Yonhap quoted the memorandum as saying. "As a result, we see no binding force on the missile moratorium."
The North's vigorous missile development has unsettled its neighbors. The U.S. military in South Korea has begun deploying new Patriot missiles designed to intercept incoming missiles. In 2003, Japan launched its first spy satellites in a multibillion dollar program aimed at monitoring North Korea's development of long-range missiles.
North Korea shocked the region in 1998 by test-firing a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. The North said it was an attempt to put a satellite in orbit.
Taepodong-1 has a 1,500-mile range, South Korean officials say. North Korea reportedly is conducting engine tests for its Taepodong-2 model that would be capable of reaching the western United States.