SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) said Saturday it remains committed to international negotiations on ending its nuclear weapons program, but demanded Japan withdraw from the six-nation talks.
The comment came a day after the communist regime repeated that it would stay away from the stalled talks until the United States apologized for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) calling North Korea one of the world's "outposts of tyranny."
International efforts to resume the negotiations gained urgency after North Korea claimed in February that it has nuclear weapons. The talks, which also involve China, Russia and South Korea, have been suspended since June after three rounds of inconclusive meetings.
On Saturday, North Korea said the Japanese government should not be a part of the talks because of what it called Japan's "cunning and vulgar" intention to exploit the process for its self-interest.
"Japan's participation in the six-party talks only complicates the problem more and leads to a failure of coming to a resolution," the North's state-run Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency. "There is no longer any need to include Japan in the six-party talks."
It wasn't the first time the North put forward such a demand amid recent tensions over North Korea's abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.
North Korea has admitted kidnapping about a dozen Japanese to train its spies and allowed five to return, claiming the rest died. But Japanese leaders believes some abductees could still be alive in the North and have rejected Pyongyang's explanations as not credible.
The Pyongyang regime also has blamed the United States for the lack of talks.
"As long as we have not totally given up on the six-party talks, they should be preceded by right conditions and circumstances, in other words, the U.S. dropping of its hostile policy," the newspaper commentary said Saturday.
On Friday, Han Song-ryol (search), deputy chief of North Korea's U.N. mission, said his government was waiting for an apology from Rice. He dismissed her recent reference to North Korea as a "sovereign" country, saying that "cannot be taken as being equivalent to an apology."
In a lecture at Seoul National University, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill said the North's setting of conditions "was not helpful."