Bush Urges Diplomatic Solution to North Korean Missile Situation

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - President Bush called for a diplomatic solution to the problems posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs and urged the international community to provide a unified response to Pyongyang's intransigency.

"We want to solve this problem diplomatically," he told reporters during a joint press availability July 6 at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (See related article.)

He called for all nations to urge North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to adhere to international norms.

"One way to send a message is through the United Nations," the president said, noting that Japan has proposed a resolution, which the United States can support.

"But we're working with our partners to make sure we speak with one voice," Bush said.  "Diplomacy takes a while, particularly when you're dealing with a variety of partners.  And so we're spending time diplomatically making sure that voice is unified."

President Bush has been speaking with the leaders of Japan and South Korea as well as with President Hu Jintao of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia.


White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters earlier in the day that Putin will put the North Korean missile/nuclear weapons issue on the agenda for the Group of Eight (G8) discussions set to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 15-17.  (See Group of Eight.)

Bush and Putin, Snow said, discussed working with other members of the Six-Party process - South Korea, Japan, China - within the context of the G8 and also the United Nations Security Council to develop a unified approach to dealing with North Korea.

Bush said it is difficult to discern North Korea's intentions, given the closed nature of its regime.  "And so I think we've got to plan for the worst and hope for the best," the president said.  "And planning for the worst means to make sure that we continue to work with friends and allies, as well as those who've agreed to be a part of the Six-Party Talks, to continue to send a unified message."

R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, told the press the United States is not going to "overreact" to Pyongyang's latest provocations.

Speaking July 6 on CBS's Early Show, Burns said:  "[W]e're certainly not going to overreact … to these wild statements out of Pyongyang and North Korea.  We've seen them before."

"The fact is," Burns said, "I think the North Koreans would like to pit the United States against themselves in a one-on-one battle of wills.  We're not going to fall for that."

Ambassador Christopher Hill, the United States' lead negotiator for the Six-Party Talks, told reporters that "the North Koreans are learning the law of unintended consequences."

Pyongyang's July 4 missile tests, Hill said on PBS's NewsHour, "certainly was effective in terms of bringing us [the international community] very closely together."


Hill is leaving shortly for discussions with Asian leaders on how to proceed next, with Beijing as his first stop.  He also will be talking to leaders in Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow.

Pyongyang created an international uproar when it test launched some six short-, medium- and long-range missiles July 4.  Expert observers say at least a few of the launches encountered serious mechanical difficulties.  Even so, Pyongyang is expected to have increased its expertise.

"What's important," Hill said, "is that we not stand around or sit around and wait for them to finally have a successful test, and then announce that they have got nuclear weapons and a delivery system."

For more information on U.S. policies, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

The transcript of the Bush-Harper press availability is available on the White House Web site. The transcript of Hill's interview on PBS's NewsHour is available on the network's Web site.