SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) on Wednesday blamed Washington for the deadlock in international talks aimed at convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and called for the immediate withdrawal of a U.S. aircraft carrier docked in the South for joint military exercises.
"The U.S. is entirely to blame for the failure to resume the six-party talks and the grave obstacle laid in the way of the solution of the nuclear issue," an unnamed spokesman from the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (search) said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) was traveling in Asia this week, heading to South Korea this weekend for consultations with President Roh Moo-hyun and other top officials on the two-year-old nuclear crisis. North Korea said last month claimed it had nuclear weapons and that it would indefinitely boycott the talks because of Washington's alleged hostile policies against the regime.
As part of the U.S. military presence in South Korea dating to the 1950-53 Korean War, American and South Korean troops are conducting joint exercises this week with air, sea and land forces. The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier arrived Monday in the southern port city of Busan to take part in the drills, which U.S. officials have said are to practice defending against "external aggression."
On Wednesday, the North Korean spokesman called for the aircraft carrier to be immediately withdrawn.
"Leveling a gun at its dialogue partner in the wake of anchoring the aircraft flotilla at South Korean ports, the U.S. is crying for the six-party talks and trying to force (North Korea) to 'abandon its nuclear program,"' the spokesman said. "Such (a) high-handed and arrogant act fully reveals the aggressive colors of the Bush administration seeking to disarm the DPRK and vanquish it."
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Washington officials have insisted that they don't intend to attack North Korea. Rice has refused to apologize for labeling the North one of the world's "outposts of tyranny," a comment that has drawn the repeated ire of the North.
En route to India, her first stop on the Asia trip, Rice told reporters Tuesday that the United States maintains its policy of finding a solution to the nuclear crisis in the six-nation disarmament talks — also including China, Japan, Russia and South Korea — and will refuse direct talks with the North as it has repeatedly demanded.
The main U.S. negotiator, however, said Tuesday that the United States might seek other means to deal with the problem outside the international talks if no progress is made.
"Clearly this can't go on forever," Christopher Hill told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was considering his nomination as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. "We need to see some progress here and if we don't, we need to look at other ways to deal with this because there is one option that is not available to us and that is to walk away from this problem."