UNITED NATIONS – North Korea accused the United States of torpedoing six-party talks on its nuclear program and then took aim at Japan's new government, saying conservatives were attempting to turn Japanese society to the right and rearm the country.
North Korea's harsh denunciation of Japan at the U.N. General Assembly's ministerial meeting came hours after Shinzo Abe's election Tuesday as Japan's youngest postwar prime minister. A nationalist and proponent of a robust alliance with the United States, Abe has called for a more assertive military and an overhaul of Japan's pacifist constitution.
There was no mention of the elections in the formal speeches to the assembly by North Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon and Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima. But at the end of the session, diplomats from both countries exercised their right of reply and traded fresh accusations.
While never mentioning the election, or Abe's victory, the North Korea diplomat said Japan's conservative authorities "are attempting to turn the whole society of Japan into the right, expedite the militarization and legitimize its ... aggression by amending the constitution."
The diplomat, who was not named, claimed Japan's criticism of North Korea was an attempt to cover up its ambition to attack the country again.
"The Korean people have a deep-seated grudge toward Japan, which has to paid off with blood," the diplomat said, repeatedly referring to Japan's more than 40-year occupation of Korea. "Japan is dangerous because while it is rich in wealth, it is very poor in terms of morality and ethics."
Japanese diplomat Takahiro Shinyo said "it was very very unfortunate" that North Korea kept raising issues from the past. He said the government is prepared to discuss outstanding issues and "settlement of the past."
Shinyo noted that in the September 2005 statement issued by the six parties to the nuclear talks, Japan and North Korea committed themselves to take steps to normalize relations.
"Japan has been for more than 50 years, since its membership of the United Nations, a peace-loving country and member, and contributed to international peace and security," Shinyo said, urging that the country be judged by its contributions.
In Tuesday's formal speech to the General Assembly, North Korea's Choe said his government opposed further nuclear talks and blamed the United States — specifically Washington's accusations about counterfeiting, its imposition of financial sanctions, and its desire for "global supremacy."
"It is quite preposterous that the DPRK, under the groundless U.S. sanctions, takes part in the talks on discussing its own nuclear abandonment," Choe said, referring to the North by its acronym. He called it a "principle that cannot tolerate even the slightest concession."
Pyongyang has boycotted the six-party talks, involving China, Japan, the Koreas, Russia and the U.S., insisting it will not return unless Washington drops financial restrictions imposed for the regime's alleged complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering. The U.S. has said the North shouldn't link the financial issue to the nuclear talks.
The need to resume the talks has taken on added urgency since North Korea test-fired a series of missiles in July. Reports also have suggested the communist regime might conduct a nuclear test to further escalate tension.
North Korea boasts that it has nuclear bombs, but the claim has not been independently verified. Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons.
Choe also rejected Japan's push for a permanent seat on the Security Council, saying this should never be allowed to happen, and he criticized the Security Council itself as irresponsible, unrepresentative and unfair.
As for the United States, Choe claimed North Korea has developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent solely for self-defense against pre-emptive strikes by the United States and was eager, in principle, to hold talks. But he said Washington's "vicious, hostile policy" made negotiations unacceptable.
Choe blamed aggravated tensions on the Korean peninsula on the U.S. military presence in South Korea, a U.S. doctrine of a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the North, large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises, U.S. military equipment sales to Seoul and regular U.S. aerial reconnaissance flights over the North.
"It is crystal clear that the U.S. is not in favor of the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Choe said, referring to President Bush's characterization of the North as part of an "axis of evil."
The United States shrugged off the denunciation.
"I wouldn't pay too much attention to that. We're trying to step up our work with the South Koreans to make sure we're really in sync," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told The Associated Press in Washington.
Japan's Oshima reiterated his country's condemnation of North Korea's ballistic missile launches on July 4 as a "reprehensible act," noted that Tokyo has imposed financial sanctions and stressed the need to comprehensively resolve the North's nuclear issue.