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South Korea upset about US criticism of North Korea

AFP | June 21, 2005

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon expressed regret Tuesday at recurring US criticism of North Korea, saying the comments are unhelful in the current reconciliatory mood.

Seoul is seeking to build on optimism sparked by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's remarks last week -- that his communist state might return to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme as early as July if the United States "acknowleges and respects" it as a dialogue partner.

At a seminar hosted by the Hudson Institute on Monday, US Undersecretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky repeated Washington's definition of North Korea as an outpost of tyranny alongside Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Cuba, according to reports here.

"It is not helpful for the current reconciliatory mood that a senior US official called North Korea an outpost of tyranny," Ban was quoted as telling Yonhap news agency.

"I find it regrettable."

An unidentified senior official at the presidential Blue House also said such remarks, although made in an unofficial setting, were unhelpful.

"Undersecretary Dobriansky reportedly called the North an outpost of tyranny. We think this kind of remarks will not help international efforts to have the six-party talks resumed," he said.

The Blue House official noted that South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and President George W. Bush agreed to step up efforts to bring the North back to the six-way talks when they met in Washington on June 10.

A high-level North Korean delegation arrived in Seoul Tuesday for four days of inter-Korean talks, during which Seoul hopes Pyongyang will set a date for its return to the talks involving the two Koreas, host China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

They aim to persuade North Korea to end its nuclear weapons drive in return for security guarantees and economic benefits.

North Korea has cited hostile US policy as its reason for refusing to return to the discussions.

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