North Korea takes aim at S. Korean president

/ Source: The Associated Press

North Korea leveled a blistering tirade Tuesday against South Korea's new president, warning in its first mention of him that Seoul's tougher policies on the North could lead to "catastrophic consequences."

The lengthy commentary in the North's main Rodong Sinmun daily came as the U.S. envoy to nuclear talks with Pyongyang arrived in Seoul for meetings aimed at ending the latest deadlock in North Korea's disarmament.

The newspaper said "Lee's seizure of power created a thorn bush in the way of the inter-Korean relations," and warned he "should not misjudge the patience and silence so far kept by" the North.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Pyongyang would have nothing to gain by stalling for a future U.S. administration to take office after November's presidential vote.

"It's time to settle now," Hill said.

Washington accuses the North of stonewalling on a declaration of its nuclear programs, which it had promised to give to the other sides at the six-nation arms talks by the end of last year.

"We've waited enough for North Korea to submit a declaration and there's no reason for North Korea to delay," South Korea's main nuclear negotiator, Chun Yung-woo, said after meeting Hill.

The North's actions were aimed at swaying conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak from his demands of concessions for Seoul's aid and refusal to shy from criticizing the nuclear-armed North.

The two Koreas have made unprecedented strides toward reconciliation under a past decade of liberal South Korean presidents, holding the first summit between the countries in 2000 and reconnecting transportation links across their heavily armed frontier. That has happened despite the two Koreas remaining technically at war. The three-year Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire that has never been replaced with a peace treaty.

Last week, North Korea test-fired missiles and ejected South Korean officials from a shared industrial zone.

A blistering commentary  
On Tuesday, the North called Lee a "conservative political charlatan" in the newspaper commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The Lee regime will be held fully accountable for the irrevocable catastrophic consequences to be entailed by the freezing of the inter-Korean relations and the disturbance of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula due to its sycophancy toward the U.S. and its moves for confrontation with the North," the newspaper said.

It said the South should not meddle in ongoing international nuclear talks that include the U.S. by demanding disarmament as a precondition for North-South cooperation.

Lee "is making a mess of the process to denuclearize the peninsula," the newspaper said.

North Korea had refrained from criticizing Lee after his landslide election win in December, as it waited to see how he would act in office. Just over a month since Lee assumed power, the North's media offensive showed the country did not like what it saw and was possibly preparing to further distance itself from the South Korean leader.

An official in Lee's office said Seoul had no immediate plans to respond to North Korea, adding that the South would handle relations with Pyongyang based on a long-term view.

However, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said it was "not appropriate" for the North to have mentioned the South Korean leader by name.