Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Bush rejects non-aggression pact

NUCLEAR CRISIS The US president said he won't sign a treaty with North Korea renouncing an invasion, but said he is open to some other kind of agreement

AP , BANGKOK

PHOTO: AFP

US President George W. Bush yesterday rejected North Korea's demand that the US sign a non-aggression pact in exchange for nuclear concessions. But the president said he would try with Asian leaders to find other ways to end the standoff.

China's president, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), said after a meeting with Bush that his country would try to get six-country talks going again in an attempt to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. The two leaders apparently also discussed issues related to the China-Taiwan relationship.

The two leaders indicated there might be room for an agreement of some sort to satisfy North Korea's security concerns.

Before the meeting with Hu, Bush reiterated that the US has no intention of invading North Korea, but rejected the idea of a formal non-aggression treaty.

"We think there's an opportunity to move the process forward, and we're going to discuss it with our partners," Bush said ahead of a 21-nation Asia-Pacific economic conference. "We will not have a treaty, if that's what you're asking. That's off the table."

But, Bush said, "Perhaps there are other ways we can look at, to say exactly what I've said publicly, on paper, with our partners' consent."

China has hosted six-party talks on North Korea along with the US, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.

North Korea has said it is not interested in new six-party talks unless the US discusses a non-aggression treaty. The country's state-run newspaper yesterday called the summit meeting the wrong place for talks on the issue, saying "the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is an issue to be resolved between us and the United States."

Bush, speaking with reporters during a meeting with Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, rejected all comparisons between the US standoff with North Korea and the situation in Iraq, which the US invaded on the grounds that it threatened its neighbors and the world.

"I've said as plainly as I can say that we have no intention of invading North Korea," Bush said. "And I've also said as plainly as I can say that we expect North Korea to get rid of her nuclear weapons ambitions."

Short of a formal treaty, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has been exploring the possibility of a written statement that might satisfy North Korean demands for a non-aggression promise.

"I'm going to look at all options," Bush said.

However, Bush said it was important to remember that "the burden is on North Korea, not America."

Meanwhile, Bush announced that the US and Thailand would begin negotiations on a free-trade agreement between the two countries. The US recently entered into such an agreement with Singapore.

Such a deal "will provide increased access to [Thailand's] large and growing market for US farmers, manufacturers and service industries," Bush said.

The US has free-trade pacts with Canada, Mexico, Israel and Jordan.

Bush also promised to increase US-Thai military cooperation in a move widely seen as a reward for Thailand's role in the capture of an al-Qaeda-linked terror suspect in August.

As Bush arrived for talks with Asian leaders ahead of the economic conference, protests in Bangkok were light, partly due to unprecedented security, and government pressure kept demonstrators far from the site.

About 1,000 protesters gathered at a Bangkok university yesterday to demonstrate against the summit, calling Bush "the world's real terrorist."

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