SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea described U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s trip to Asia to convince Pyongyang it is not under threat of attack a “sleight of hand” with U.S. presidential elections less than two weeks away.

During his weekend trip, Powell intends to consult with Japan, China and South Korea on how to assure the North that Washington is not interested in attacking the country. He will also attempt to revive stalled six-nation talks seeking to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang insists it needs a “nuclear deterrent” against a U.S. invasion.

North Korea said Saturday talks can only recommence when Washington drops its hostile policy toward it, and promises a “reward for freeze” on its nuclear activities.

“If the U.S. persistently pursues its confrontational hostile policy toward the DPRK from the viewpoint of escapism, it will only compel the DPRK to double its deterrent force, much less any solution to the nuclear issue,” Pyongyang’s official Rodong newspaper said, using the acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Commenting on Powell’s trip, a spokesman from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry described Washington’s diplomatic effort as a “sleight of hand in the run-up to the (U.S.) presidential election.”

The North also demands that six-nation talks address its allegations that South Korea may have been developing nuclear weapons. Seoul denies the accusations, although it recently admitted its scientists had conducted secret nuclear experiments in the past.

“The resumption of the six-party talks depends on whether the U.S. is ready to fully consider the demands raised by the DPRK,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The six-party negotiations include the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan. Three rounds of talks, held in Beijing, have yielded little progress. A fourth round was set for September, but North Korea refused to attend.

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