North Korea Shuns U.S. Official

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Pyongyang (search) called a U.S. State Department official "human scum" for his criticism of North Korea's leader, but the communist nation said it would still join talks on its suspected nuclear weapons program.

North Korea said Saturday that it won't deal with U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton (search) because he described Kim Jong Il as a "tyrannical dictator" and said "life is a hellish nightmare" for many North Koreans.

Bolton had made the remarks during a visit to South Korea (search) last week.

"Such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the North's official KCNA news agency. "We have decided not to consider him as an official of the U.S. administration any longer nor to deal with him."

Bolton handles arms control and international security in the State Department and has been closely involved in efforts to resolve the dispute over the North's weapons program.

The spokesman said, however, that there was no change in Pyongyang's decision to hold six-country talks on the nuclear issue. The countries involved are expected to be North Korea, the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Also Sunday, a Japanese newspaper reported that Washington and Tokyo have begun talks on forming an inspection team to ensure that North Korea eliminates its nuclear program.

Bolton discussed details of the plan with senior Japanese officials Friday, after the North agreed to the multilateral talks, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The inspectors would likely come from the five countries expected to participate in the talks with North Korea, said the newspaper. The report could not be immediately confirmed and there was no word on whether Pyongyang would allow the inspections.

Pyongyang agreed to the talks despite saying for months it would only consent to one-on-one talks with the United States. The North says it will work on the sidelines of the negotiations to push for talks with Washington, which has insisted on the larger format because it says the North's nuclear program is a regional concern.

The nuclear standoff began in October, when U.S. officials said North Korea acknowledged having a uranium-based nuclear weapons program.