|President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun
say they are committed to resolving the nuclear stand-off with North Korea
diplomatically. Mr. Bush says the United States wants security on the
President Bush says North Korean leader Kim Jung Il's refusal to return
to six-party talks on the nuclear issue has only strengthened the
determination of the United States, South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan
to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Following Oval Office talks with the South Korean leader, Mr. Bush said
there is clearly a better way forward for North Korea if it verifiably
gives up nuclear weapons.
"The incentive is for Kim Jung Il to understand there is a better way
to improve the lives of his people than being isolated," he said. "That
stability in the region is in his interest, the ultimate interests for the
people of North Korea to be able to benefit and for families to be able to
have food on the table."
President Roh says South Korea and the United States are consulting
closely on ways to restart those six-party talks.
The two leaders have differed in their approach to the government in
Pyongyang with President Bush pushing tougher sanctions and President Roh
trying to engage the North Koreans with economic incentives.
President Roh this week acknowledged that difference in a speech to the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saying he is "quite aware" of concerns about the
state of bilateral relations.
At the White House, Mr. Roh was asked about concerns among South Korean
voters that further U.S. sanctions could worsen the nuclear stand-off. He
said it is not an appropriate time to talk about those possible sanctions
as diplomats are working hard to restart talks.
Speaking through an interpreter, President Roh said South Korea is
complying with trade restrictions imposed by a July U.N. Security Council
resolution against Pyongyang following North Korean missile tests.
"Because we do not want to hurt the inter-Korean relations, we do not
label these measures as sanctions, [but] we are in fact taking measure
tantamount to sanctions after
the North Korean missile launches," Mr. Roh said. "That is we have
suspended rice and fertilizer aide to North Korea."
President Bush and President Roh also discussed the long-sought
transfer of wartime command from the American to the South Korean
military. There are currently about 30,000 U.S. troops in the country who
still officially control South Korean defenses as there is no formal peace
treaty ending the Korean War.
President Bush says he and President Roh agreed that transfer should
not be politicized and they will continue to consult on an appropriate
"Decisions about the placement of our troops and the size of our troops
will be made in consultation with the South Korean government," he said.
President Bush also thanked the South Korean leader for sending 3,000
troops to Iraq.