"What Cheney uttered at a time when the issue of the six-party talks is high on the agenda is little short of telling (North Korea) not to come out for the talks," an unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Nearly a year since the last session of the six-nation talks, North Korea has refused to return to the table, citing a "hostile" U.S. policy. More recently, it has also called for an apology for being labeled one of the world's "outposts of tyranny" by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will have a chance this weekend to consult with Asian allies about containing North Korea's nuclear threat and to outline U.S. military policy for the region at a conference with many of the area's top leaders.
Rumsfeld left Thursday for Singapore, where he will attend an annual Asian security conference sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. His schedule includes one-on-one meetings with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea, and a keynote speech Saturday where he is expected to discuss issues such as shipping security, fighting terrorists and his plans to restructure U.S. troop presence in the region.
North Korea is sure to be a main topic at the conference. The U.S. is trying to restart six-way talks with North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs.
In a Sunday interview on CNN, Cheney called the North Korean leader "one of the world's most irresponsible leaders" who runs a police state and leaves his people in poverty and malnutrition.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan described the communist country's comments as "more of the same kind of bluster we hear from North Korea from time to time. When they make provocative statements, they only further isolate themselves."
President Bush himself has sounded a more conciliatory tone recently, referring to Kim this week at a news conference using the title "Mr."
At a news conference Tuesday, Mr. Bush defended his diplomatic approach to North Korea, rejecting criticism that it has allowed North Korea's government to expand its nuclear program. Mr. Bush said trying to persuade Pyongyang to abandon the program through six-nation talks was the most likely route to success.