NORTH KOREA DENOUNCES US DRUG TRAFFICKING REPORT SEOUL (AP)--North Korea lashed out Friday at a new U.S. State Department report accusing the communist regime in the strongest terms to date of state-sponsored drug trafficking, denouncing it as a "mud-slinging" smear campaign. The annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released Monday in Washington, painted North Korea as an increasingly bold trafficker in methamphetamine and heroin and said Pyongyang was likely backing it "for profit as state policy." It cited recent drug seizures throughout East Asia and testimony from defectors who say North Korea has large-scale poppy cultivation for opium production. "It appears doubtful that large quantities of illicit narcotics could be produced in and/or trafficked through North Korea without high-level party and/or government involvement, if not state support," the report concluded. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the allegations Friday, saying his government "bans by law the use, transaction and production of drug which renders people mentally deformed." "This mud-slinging is a product of the U.S. policy of isolating and stifling DPRK," he told the North's official KCNA news agency. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name. "The U.S. would be well advised to mind its own business," he added. The U.S. and several of North Korea's neighbors, including Japan, have often suspected the impoverished nation of trafficking drugs to prop up its failed economy. But U.S. officials had referred only infrequently to North Korea's role in the illicit trade. That changed after the North Korean cargo ship Pong Su was caught off the coast of Australia last April with 125 kilograms of heroin in its hold. The stash was worth US$154 million. The State Department's report cited that incident along with a June 2003 seizure of 50 kilograms of methamphetamine in the South Korean port of Busan. At the time, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the shipment had an estimated street value of $250 million. The drugs were packed onto a Chinese ship in the North Korean port of Najin, it said. While it is unclear where the methamphetamine was manufactured, the State Department said the seizure suggests collusion between Chinese and North Korean drug runners. On Friday, six men including three North Koreans were ordered to stand trial in Australian court for drug smuggling charges in the Pong Su case. The trial could shed more light on North Korea's alleged role in international drug trafficking.