Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Blaming the United States for pushing it into a corner, North Korea rejected demands it give up its nuclear weapons program during an acrimonious opening round of talks Tuesday with Japan on establishing diplomatic ties, Japanese officials said.
The talks were the first the countries have held in two years on establishing ties, and hopes were high North Korea would offer some sort of concession on the nuclear issue and growing outrage in Japan over the kidnapping of its citizens in the 1970s and '80s.
But along with ignoring calls to halt its nuclear weapons development, the North strongly rebuffed Japan on the abduction issue, heightening an already emotional tug-of-war between the Asian neighbors.
North Korea accused Japan of reneging on its pledge to return five Japanese citizens who are visiting Japan for the first time since North Korean agents abducted them.
Still, officials said talks would continue as scheduled today.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that North Korea faces a grim economic future unless it complies with growing international demands to surrender the nuclear program.
"No North Korean child can eat enriched uranium," Powell told a news conference. "It is fool's gold for North Korea."
North Korea has long justified efforts to bolster its military by claiming that the presence of tens of thousands of American troops in Japan and South Korea is a threat against which it must be able to defend itself.