Kim Jong-il called on the United States to end its "aggression" towards North Korea, in a rare interview published yesterday. North Korea's reclusive leader also told Itar Tass, the Russian state-owned news agency, that his country was ready to restart talks on the North's nuclear programme, in what the agency said was the eccentric dictator's first interview in nine years.
Mr Kim said it was "America's fault" the nuclear issue has arisen at all. "We decided to acquire a nuclear deterrent force to defend our sovereignty from the open nuclear threat of the US," the North Korean leader said. He added, however, that Pyongyang was ready for the resumption of long-suspended six-party nuclear talks, and called on Washington to change its policies towards North Korea. "The US has continued its aggressive policies towards North Korea in the new millennium, increasing pressure on our country and bringing the situation to the edge of real danger." Mr Kim added that all such efforts were "doomed to failure" and that the North would never surrender.
There were reports in Washington yesterday that the US has appointed a new full-time envoy to head direct engagement with North Korea, which is due to resume at talks in Geneva next week.
Analysts say that Mr Kim will likely seek concessions and aid from the West, but is unlikely to give up his nuclear programme entirely.