As the Bush administration steps up its accusations that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) is planning to test a long-range missile that could reach the United States, North Korean officials are calling for dialogue based on mutual respect.

“We are aware of the U.S. concerns about our missile test-launch,” Han Song Ryol, deputy chief of the DPRK’s UN mission, told South Korea’s Yonhap News agency on June 21. “So our position is that we should resolve the issue through negotiations.”

While the North is calling for talks, the Bush administration has taken a hard line. “You don’t initiate talks by threatening to launch an ICBM,” said John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the UN.

Some have gone even further. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, top Defense Department officials during the Clinton administration, called for a pre-emptive attack on North Korea to destroy its missile capabilities.

However, many Democrats and even some Republicans have called for a much more moderate approach. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said the administration should agree to a demand North Korea has been making for years: direct talks between the two countries.

While Seoul, under U.S. pressure, has recently threatened reprisals if the DPRK were to launch a satellite or missile, its government has taken a somewhat different stance than that of the U.S.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said it was unlikely that North Korea was about to launch a missile. An unnamed South Korean official, quoted June 21 in the Washington Post, said his government was not terribly concerned and that he did not see why there was “such a fuss” in other countries.

North Korea has declined to furnish details about its missile testing plans, arguing that the U.S., which maintains a huge nuclear arsenal and has 30,000 soldiers stationed at the DPRK’s border, has no right to demand such information.

“North Korea as a sovereign state has the right to develop, deploy, test fire and export a missile,” the DPRK’s Han said.

While the mainstream news media has been reporting as hard fact that the DPRK is about to launch a military-oriented Taepodong-2 missile, it is not even clear this is so. It may instead be planning to launch a satellite, said Chosun Shinbo, newspaper of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, a group that is known to be friendly to the North.

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