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North Korea lashes out at U.S., Japan, South Korea

TOKYO — TOKYO - Amid signs of growing diplomatic and military isolation, North Korea lashed out at the United States, South Korea and Japan yesterday, barely a week before the scheduled start of international talks on the North's nuclear program.

Russia, traditionally an ally of North Korea, embarked on a 10-day maritime exercise, partly in waters near North Korea, that will involve two traditional enemies of the North, Japan and South Korea. The exercise is the first time that warships from the three countries have conducted joint maneuvers.

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Also yesterday, China and Japan announced that for the first time they would conduct mutual visits by warships. In addition, on Sept. 1, Shigeru Ishiba, chief of Japan's Defense Agency, is to travel to Shanghai and Beijing, the first visit by a Japanese defense minister in five years.

Accentuating North Korea's isolation, a South Korean patrol boat fired five rounds yesterday at a North Korean fishing boat that entered what South Korea considers its territorial waters.

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All this comes one day after the United States announced plans for joint naval exercises next month in the Coral Sea off northeastern Australia, a move that U.S. officials said was designed to send a message to North Korea.

"I'd like to solve this diplomatically, and I believe we can," President Bush told Armed Forces Radio and Television in an interview released yesterday by the White House. "It's going to take a lot of persuasion by countries besides the United States to convince him."

North Korea, in response to efforts to isolate it ahead of talks next week in Beijing, blasted the United States yesterday, criticizing Washington for leading 10 other nations in the Proliferation Security Initiative, an alliance designed to intercept North Korean ships suspected of carrying contraband.

North Korea insisted that it "cannot dismantle its nuclear deterrent force at the talks" unless "it becomes clear that the U.S. does not hinder the economic cooperation" between North Korea and other countries, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea also turned on Japan for visits conducted Friday by four Cabinet members and more than 50 members of Parliament to Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto war memorial seen by many Koreans and Chinese as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Japanese "reactionaries" were trying "to realize their wild ambition for the reinvasion of Asia at any cost, calling back the departed souls of militarists, oblivious of a lesson taught by history," KCNA said.


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