The promise to adhere to a moratorium that began in September 1999 was a significant advance in a process that has stalled amid U.S.-North Korean tension.
While Kim feted European Union head Goeran Persson and his entourage with toasts from tumblers of red wine, his government was reacting furiously to the release this week of a U.S. State Department report that again listed North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism.
"Washington had better mind its own business," KCNA, the North's foreign news outlet, said in a commentary that characterized U.S. airstrikes on Iraq as an example of terrorism.
It said the United States would be "well advised" to wash "its own terrorists' hands stained with blood before taking issue with others."
The mood was cordial during five hours of talks between Kim and Persson, the Swedish prime minister who traveled to one of the world's most secretive countries to try to energize efforts to end the decades-old enmity on the Korean peninsula.
"Kim Jong Il said that the moratorium on testing would last until 2003," said Persson, the first Western European leader to visit the totalitarian North. After that, he said, the North "would wait and see."
Earlier this year, the North threatened to end a two-year moratorium on long-range missile tests.
Pyongyang halted the tests in September 1999, a year after testing a rocket that flew over Japan into the Pacific Ocean. The North agreed to the moratorium as long as negotiations continued with the United States.
North Korea also agreed to send officials to Europe this summer to discuss opening talks about its widely criticized human rights record, European envoys said.
Kim, who enjoys a personality cult and tolerates no dissent from his 22 million people, would not yield easily to European efforts to persuade him to relax his control.
"We don't think it's going to be an easy process, but we think it's important to start talking, and they've agreed to do that," said Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for external relations.
The talks were held as news came that a man Japanese and South Korean authorities believe could be Kim Jong Il's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 29, was detained Tuesday at an airport outside Tokyo for attempting to enter Japan illegally.
|EU Commissioner of External Relations Chris Patten, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, North Korean President Kim Jong Il and EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana|
North Korea's ties with Washington, which helps guard the South with 37,000 American soldiers, have deteriorated since President Bush took office in January. Mr. Bush voiced skepticism about the North and said he would suspend talks with Pyongyang pending a policy review.
"Our policy of review is continuing," said State Department spokesman Philip Reeker Wednesday. "We remain in touch with North Korea at the working level through our New York channel, We haven't ruled out other contacts with North Korea at the appropriate time, but the nature of those contacts has yet to be determined."
Reeker said EU officials would be in Washington next week to brief U.S. officials on the North Korea talks.
The State Department terrorism report found that North Korea "continued to provide safe-haven to the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction members who participated in the hijacking of a Japanese Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970."
"Some evidence also suggests the DPRK may have sold weapons directly or indirectly to terrorist groups during the year," it continued. "Philippine officials publicly declared that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had purchased weapons from North Korea with funds provided by Middle East sources. "
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