North Korea Rejects U.S. Offers as 'Pie in the Sky'

North Korea rejected as "pie in the sky" U.S. offers of talks and possible aid in exchange for abandoning its nuclear ambitions, accusing Washington on Wednesday of staging a "deceptive drama" to mislead world opinion.

Keeping up a stream of anti-American invective -- even as it agreed to more high-level meetings with South Korea next week -- Pyongyang declared it would accept no U.S. offer of dialogue with conditions attached.

Washington's "loudmouthed supply of energy and food aid are like a pie in the sky, as they are possible only after the DPRK is totally disarmed," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a report by the country's foreign news outlet, KCNA.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, who is visiting Asia to seek support in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, said Thursday in Beijing that resolving the issue would be a "very slow process."

"We're not about minute solutions to very complicated problems," Kelly said before leaving Beijing for Singapore. "And we're going to have to talk and work together and communicate with other people including with North Korea very, very clearly."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday the United States had not heard any official word from Pyongyang.

"That's an additional unfortunate comment that North Korea has made," he said of the North's reported dismissal of a possible aid deal.

After assuring South Korean officials in Seoul that Washington will stick to diplomacy to resolve the North's nuclear dispute, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly met Chinese officials in Beijing to seek their help. He said Thursday that resolving the issue would be a "very slow process."

"We're not about minute solutions to very complicated problems," Kelly said before leaving for Singapore. "And we're going to have to talk and work together and communicate with other people including with North Korea very, very clearly."

As North Korea's only remaining major ally, China is in a strong position to influence its communist neighbor. China traditionally supports a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry's Web site said that Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told Kelly on Wedneday that "China is willing to coordinate with various parties to push for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue at an early date." The site did not provide any more details. China had said earlerL

Kelly earlier this week had extended one of Washington's tentative aid offers if North Korea verifiably disarms.

South Korea pushed forward its own efforts to defuse the tension by setting up Cabinet-level talks with North Korea in Seoul. The talks, Jan. 21-24, are the first opportunity for South Korea to directly raise its concerns over the nuclear issue.

U.S., British and French officials meeting Wednesday in London decided that the International Atomic Engergy Agency's 35-nation board of governors should convene as a next step in the dispute with North Korea, a U.S. official said.

Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that the officials met to discuss North Korea as part of regular contacts, but did not say what the envoys discussed.

Meanwhile, South Korea's President-elect Roh Moo-hyun visited the U.S. military command in Seoul and hailed the U.S.-South Korea alliance as the "driving force" for security in the region.

"We can never accept North Korea's nuclear weapons program," Roh said, calling for an international diplomatic effort to defuse the standoff. "The South Korean-U.S. alliance should be the basis for this effort," he said.

The United States keeps 37,000 troops based in South Korea.

Despite the nuclear tension, the Korean border remained calm Wednesday, South Korean Defense Ministry officials said. But U.S. military officials reported increased North Korean patrols in one area of the 2.5-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.

Lt. Col. Matthew Margotta, who commands a combined battalion of U.S. and South Korean soldiers, said the North Korean moves were "not alarming, just unusual." He added that the North Koreans have also occupied a guard tower that hadn't been used in years.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday at a Washington briefing that the movements probably weren't linked to the nuclear standoff.

"The incidents in the DMZ, I think, are related to other issues, perhaps, that have to do with authorities in the DMZ and so forth and do not have to do with the current issue with their nuclear programs," Myers said.

"We know this is the most intensive time of training for them (North Koreans). It's always the winter training cycle where they conduct the majority of their training," he said.

North Korea's rejection of U.S. dialogue offers was among the daily diatribes it issues through the state-run media.

"It is clear that the U.S. talk about dialogue is nothing but a deceptive drama to mislead the world public opinion," the KCNA agency quoted said Wednesday.

Reports from the agency also rejected international concern over its nuclear programs, saying that the United States started nuclear proliferation and was now trying to shift the blame to North Korea.

"In 1945, the U.S. produced three A-bombs and tested one of them in its mainland and dropped the other two on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, inflicting nuclear holocaust on the Japanese for the first time in human history," the dispatch said.

The North also has continually tried to drive a wedge between the South and the United States, its key ally, and on Wednesday called for a joint Korean struggle against "U.S. imperialists."

"If the North and South join forces and take a joint stand, we can protect the nation's dignity and safety against U.S. arrogance," said Pyongyang Radio, monitored by South Korea's national Yonhap news agency.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been rising since North Korea admitted in October to having a secret nuclear program. Last week the communist regime withdrew from a global treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, and threatened to resume missile tests.