SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Saturday that U.S. pressure over human rights and other issues threatens the future of international talks on an agreement to end the communist regime's nuclear arms program.
The comment, carried in a dispatch from Pyongyang by the official Korean Central News Agency, came one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (search) promised visiting Chinese PresidentHu Jintao (search) that his regime would participate in the next round of six-nation nuclear talks.
North Korea (search) promised in September to give up its nuclear arms work in exchange for aid and security guarantees. It tempered that pledge almost immediately, saying it first wanted a civilian nuclear reactor for generating electricity — a condition Washington calls unacceptable.
The two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States agreed in a joint statement Sept. 19 to convene a fifth round of nuclear talks in the Chinese capital sometime in early November. No date has been set.
"The basic spirit of the joint statement of the talks is mutual respect and peaceful coexistence," the North Korean news agency said. "The pressure campaign launched by the U.S. under the groundless pretexts of 'human rights abuse' and 'illegal trafficking' defying this spirit is little short of annulling the statement."
It said such U.S. pressure could heighten tensions and "hamstring the process for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula."
North Korea delayed the start of the September round of talks by two weeks, citing anger over joint U.S.-South Korean war games and Washington's appointment of a special envoy on the communist nation's human rights status.
The U.S. Treasury Department (search) on Oct. 21 targeted eight North Korean companies suspected of being overseas fronts for Pyongyang's sale of missiles and nuclear and biological weapons. The action bars transactions between the companies and U.S. citizens and freezes any of the firms' assets under U.S. jurisdiction.
North Korea also has accused the United States of using the six-nation talks to trick it into disarming before launching a nuclear attack. The United States, which has some 30,000 military personnel in South Korea, has denied plans to attack the North.
Hu, who arrived in Pyongyang on Friday for an official visit, is the first Chinese leader to go to North Korea since 2001. Kim, who rarely travels abroad, last visited Beijing in 2004, when he studied Chinese economic reforms.
China is under pressure from the United States and other governments to use its leverage as North Korea's main aid donor to push Pyongyang for concessions in the nuclear talks.
The chief U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill, was to arrive in Seoul on Sunday for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Song Min-soon, to discuss the next round. China's point man on Korean affairs, Li Bin, met with Song on Saturday.