Donald Rumsfeld said North Korea "looked bleak"
North Korea has launched a scathing attack on US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling him a "dictatorial psychopath".
The official KCNA news agency commentary went on to call him a "politically illiterate old man" who was "cursed and hated worldwide" because of his belief that only the US can dispense international justice.
The condemnation, outspoken even for the official news agency, followed Mr Rumsfeld's own negative comments about North Korea in a recent speech to US and South Korean business leaders.
He said: "While the situation in North Korea sometimes looks bleak, I'm convinced that one day freedom will come to the people and light up that oppressed land with hope and promise."
War of words
Mr Rumsfeld said that he had a night-time satellite picture of the divided peninsula in his office that showed the North almost entirely in darkness and the South lit up.
North Korea and the United States are at loggerheads over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
On Saturday US President George W Bush, following talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin, again called on Pyongyang to end its plans for nuclear weapons.
The news agency said it was easy to asses the political line of the Bush administration "which includes such a dangerous international dictator" as Mr Rumsfeld.
It said Mr Rumsfeld was "not likely at all that he would speak truth as he is obsessed with wantonly harassing peace and security in different parts of the world and igniting wars".
Tensions have been high since the US and North Korea became engaged in a war of words over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions last October.
Washington has characterised North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" and has said North Korea has admitted to possessing at least one nuclear bomb.
North Korea has called for economic aid and a non-aggression pact with America in return for surrendering its nuclear ambitions, but Washington has consistently refused.
But Mr Rumsfeld is not the first to prompt the wrath of the news agency.
In August, US State Department official John Bolton was described as "human scum" for calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il a tyrannical dictator.