United States Committed to Diplomacy with North Korea, Bush says

By Stephen Kaufman
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington - President Bush reaffirmed the United States' adherence to its security agreements with Japan and South Korea in the wake of North Korea's claims to have tested a nuclear weapon, but he said his administration has "no intention" of attacking North Korea.

Speaking in a press conference at the White House October 11, the president said North Korea's reported October 9 test "constitutes a threat to international peace and stability," and expressed his desire to ensure "serious repercussions" for North Korea through a U.N. Security Council resolution. (See related article.)

"[I]n my discussions with our partners, I reassured them that the security agreements we have with them will be enforced, if need be. And that's in particular to South Korea and Japan," he said.

The president said the United States "reserves all options" to defend its friends and interests in East Asia, but "remains committed to diplomacy."

"The United States affirmed that we have no nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. We affirmed that we have no intention of attacking North Korea," he said.

The United States and its allies want the Security Council resolution to require that North Korea "abide by its international commitments to dismantle its nuclear programs," and "specify a series of measures to prevent North Korea from exporting nuclear or missile technologies and prevent financial transactions or asset transfers that would help North Korea develop its nuclear missile capabilities," Bush said.

North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear weapon went against its agreement on September 19, 2005, to abandon its nuclear program and to abide by international agreements such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Bush said.  This was the second agreement with the United States from which the government of Kim Jong Il has walked away, he said, recalling North Korea's 1994 agreement with the Clinton administration that "there would be no program whatsoever toward the development of a weapon."

"[I]t's the intransigence of the North Korean leader that speaks volumes about the process," Bush said.  "It is his unwillingness to choose a way forward for his country - a better way forward for his country. It is his decision."

The president said now other parties, such as South Korea, China, Japan and Russia "have made it clear to North Korea that they share the same goals of the United States, which is a nuclear weapons-free peninsula."

North Korea's nuclear test has "caused us to come together and work in the United Nations to send a clear message to the North Korean regime," he said. "We're bound up together with a common strategy to solve this issue peacefully, through diplomatic means."

Bush said the United States will "take the necessary actions" to achieve its goals of peace and security in Northeast Asia, and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.   "We'll support our allies in the region. And together we will ensure that North Korea understands the consequences if it continues down its current path."

He said his May 23, 2003, statement that the United States "will not tolerate" a nuclear North Korea "still stands."

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