Pyongyang branded President Bush a philistine and a cowboy on Saturday after he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a tyrant earlier this week.
The North’s official KCNA news agency reported a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Bush had slandered Kim in Thursday’s comments, in which he also called the country’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, a “dangerous person.”
“He (Bush) is a half-baked man in terms of morality and a philistine whom we can never deal with,” KCNA cited the spokesman as saying.
Washington had toned down its rhetoric about the Stalinist state in recent weeks as it tries to revive six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’ nuclear ambitions.
The United States has been worried about a possible North Korean nuclear test. When asked about whether the North can mount a nuclear device on a missile, Bush said it was best to expect the worst from the North’s leader.
“There is concern about his capability to deliver a nuclear weapon. We don’t know if he can or not but I think it’s best, when you’re dealing with a tyrant like Kim Jong-il, to assume he can,” Bush said.
Tension was heightened earlier this week when the head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said North Korea may have mastered the technology for mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States.
Pyongyang reacted angrily to Bush’s comments.
“No one can expect to hear reasonable words from Bush, once a cowboy at a ranch in Texas. His remarks often stun audiences as they reveal his utter ignorance,” the spokesman from Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said.
In February, North Korea said it possessed nuclear weapons and was withdrawing from the six-party talks.
WASHINGTON’S PATIENCE WEARING THIN
U.S. officials have also told U.S. newspapers the North had recently stepped up activity at a site Washington says can be used for an underground nuclear test.
Patience in Washington is wearing thin. The last round of talks on the nuclear issue including North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States was in June 2004.
The United States has acknowledged it might consider tougher action against North Korea if it refuses to return, such as taking the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
Another option for the Bush administration would be to seek a U.N. resolution empowering nations to intercept ships and aircraft that may be carrying nuclear-related material in and out of North Korea.
In a separate article on KCNA, the North accused the United States of trying to rupture the six-party process by bringing up the issue of sanctions.
“The United States seeks to drive the six-party talks into a rupture while bringing up the nuclear issue at the United Nations in a bid to induce sanctions against the DPRK without difficulty,” it said.
DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The chief U.S. negotiator to the talks has spent the past week shuttling between Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo in a bid to revive the six-party process.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters on Friday at a press conference in Seoul the parties could not wait forever for Pyongyang to return to the table.
He said the talks offered the best avenue for North Korea to receive the security assurances and aid that it desires.
“We are not abandoning the six-party process,” Hill said, adding that no deadline had been set for the North to decide to return to talks.