North Korea Derides Clinton, Calls Her Remarks 'Vulgar'

Faced with a fresh refusal by North Korea to negotiate away its nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday the communist regime has "no friends left" to shield it from punishing U.N. Penalties. Video by AP
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 24, 2009

PHUKET, Thailand, July 23 -- The war of words between North Korea and the United States escalated Thursday, with North Korea's Foreign Ministry lashing out at Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in unusually personal terms for "vulgar remarks" that it said demonstrated "she is by no means intelligent."

Clinton, who this week likened North Korea to an unruly child, has rallied international isolation of North Korea at a 27-member regional security forum here. She even sent a delegation of U.S. officials to meet with diplomats from Burma, which has strained relations with Washington, to press for compliance with a U.N. Security Council resolution barring exports of North Korean arms and missiles. Burma announced Thursday that it would comply with it.

"There is no place to go for North Korea," Clinton told reporters after reading a nearly seven-minute statement outlining U.S. policy on North Korea. "They have no friends left."

North Korean officials also are attending the conference hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and denounced the United States. Nuclear disarmament "talks are over," spokesman Ri Hung Sik said at a news conference, because of the "deep-rooted anti-North Korean policy" of the United States. North Korea rarely holds media events, so the decision to speak to reporters was significant.

The Foreign Ministry statement attacking Clinton also demonstrated the North Korean mood. "We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to North Korean media. "Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping."

The fit of pique was apparently inspired by an interview Clinton gave ABC News while visiting New Delhi this week. "What we've seen is this constant demand for attention," Clinton said. "And maybe it's the mother in me or the experience that I've had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention -- don't give it to them, they don't deserve it, they are acting out."

The Obama administration came into office with hopes that it could restart the nuclear talks that broke down in the final days of the Bush administration. President George W. Bush, who had originally taken a hard line, made substantial concessions to Pyongyang after it first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, but the talks faltered nonetheless.

President Obama appointed a special envoy for negotiations with the hope of rebuilding the process. But after North Korea recently tested ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapon, the Obama team shifted course, viewing North Korea as a test case to demonstrate that substantial sanctions could be imposed on nuclear rogues while still holding out the promise of a better relationship.

"We are open to talks with North Korea. But we are not interested in half-measures," Clinton said. "We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table."

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