The Pyongyang government was described as a “hellish nightmare”  by a top US official while the Communist state retaliated swiftly by describing the Bush Adminstration as being full of “all sorts of lies and plots”.

US Undersecretary of State John Bolton lobbed the latest insult at North Korea by accusing it of accelerating its weapons proliferation programme in the past year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was mistaken if he believed developing nuclear arms would weaken US and international resolve to halt Pyongyang’s alleged atomic ambitions, said Bolton.

“The days of DPRK (North Korea) blackmail are over,” said Bolton in a speech to the East Asia Institute in Seoul.

Bolton, widely perceived as a Bush administration hawk on North Korea, described Kim as a “tyrannical dictator”.

“While he lives like royalty in Pyongyang, he keeps hundreds of thousands of people locked in prison camps with millions more mired in abject poverty, scrounging the ground for food. For many in North Korea, life is a hellish nightmare,” he said.

Invasion fears 

Barbed comments between US 
and North Korea heightens tension

 

For its part, Pyongyang said Washington should be brought to “international justice” for justifying war against Iraq with misinformation about the country’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.

It accused Washington of shoring up its forces in South Korea as a run-up to an invasion of North Korea.

The accusations come amid uncertainty over prospects for a new round of talks on North Korea’s suspected development of nuclear weapons.

Bolton said Washington was continuing its efforts to persuade North Korea to start multilateral talks on ending its nuclear arms programme.

Pyongyang says the only way to defuse tensions with Washington is through bilateral talks and a non-aggression treaty between the two countries.

Washington has said it will consider fresh talks with North Korea and China on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions if these talks were immediately followed by broader discussions involving Japan, South Korea and possibly Russia.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday he saw a “distinct possibility” of more multilateral talks this year with North Korea, China and possibly other countries aimed at resolving the crisis.