SEOUL, S KOREA - NORTH Korea, launching its latest attack on South Korea's new President Lee Myung Bak, described him on Monday as a merchant who treats cross-border relations as a commodity to bargain over.
The ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary that Pyongyang would never 'associate or make any deal' with what it called a 'treacherous' group.
Mr Lee is 'a businessman who is counting on the abacus while trying to make national and North-South issues an object of bargaining like a merchant,' it said.
It was the latest in a series of verbal attacks and threats prompted by the former business executive's decision to link major economic aid to progress on nuclear disarmament.
Analysts believe the North is testing Mr Lee's resolve. Mr Lee himself said on Sunday the two Koreas were in an 'adjustment period' after he took over in February following 10 years of rule by liberal presidents who preached engagement.
'From such a point of view, the government has been handling North Korea's recent provocative remarks and acts in a principled, calm and resolute way,' Mr Lee said.
Rodong Sinmun said the North had patiently waited for Mr Lee's administration to regain its reason.
'But the Lee Myung Bak group missed the point, describing our due advice and countermeasures on its pro-US sycophancy and anti-reunification acts as a test of resolve,' it said.
'This clearly proves that they are really a shameless and treacherous group.'
The newspaper said relations would worsen further unless Mr Lee changes his policy.
Tensions mounted after the North kicked South Korean officials out of a joint industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong on March 27.
The next day, it test-fired missiles and accused Seoul of breaching the sea border.
The North has also accused the South of planning a preemptive attack. It threatened to turn its neighbour into 'ashes' and has blocked South Korean officials from operating in the country on joint projects.
Mr Lee has pledged to help the North roughly triple its per capita income to 3,000 dollars in 10 years if it fully denuclearises and opens up to the outside world.
But the North angrily denounced the keynote policy pledge as an 'unpardonable provocation and insult.' -- AFP