Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Bush, Roh present united front to North Koreans

NUCLEAR STANDOFF The two leaders said they would not tolerate nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula but did not say what they would do next

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun warned Wednesday they would "not tolerate" nuclear weapons in North Korea as they forged a public display of unity in their first-ever summit.

Bush moved to assuage fears of a US military response to the showdown with his "axis of evil" foe, but neither side laid out in detail how they proposed to thwart the communist state's drive for nuclear weapons.

In an editorial published as the two leaders met, North Korea, also known as DPRK, urged the US to drop its "hostile policy" if it wanted to end the crisis over nuclear weapons.

"It will be possible to settle the outstanding issues between the DPRK and the US, including the nuclear issue, only if the US opts to renounce its hostile policy toward the DPRK and approaches dialogue from a proper stand, though belatedly," Rodong Sinmun said, according to the North's KCNA news agency.

In Washington, the US side promised South Korea it would retain a "robust forward presence" on the Korean Peninsula, but signalled it would try to ease the burden on the South Korean people posed by its 37,000 strong garrison.

"I assured the president we will continue to work to achieve a peaceful solution," Bush said in a symbolic joint appearance with Roh in the White House Rose Garden.

He cited "good progress" being made towards ending the crisis, despite inconclusive US talks with the Stalinist state last month also involving China.

Beijing urged calm and dialogue yesterday to resolve the crisis.

"We hope all sides will make efforts to resolve the problem through dialogue and avoid taking any positions that would make the situation more tense or complicated," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue (章啟月) said.

Roh insists that military force should not be an option in the drama, but the US administration, though preferring diplomacy, says all options remain on the table. Bush says no deals can be made with Pyongyang until it renounces the nuclear drive.

In a statement, Bush and Roh tried to frustrate Pyongyang's traditional tactic of probing divisions in the US-South Korea alliance.

"President Roh and President Bush reaffirmed they would not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea," the statement said.

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