- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday reiterated his commitment to six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in a call from President Bush about the stalled negotiations involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

North Korea, which has restarted its nuclear weapons program and grown increasingly belligerent with its neighbors, has become a top campaign issue as Democratic Sen. John Kerry criticizes Mr. Bush for not engaging in exclusively bilateral talks with the communist nation.

But the president has ridiculed Mr. Kerry’s position, asserting that nations in the region must be a part of the solution.

“There was a bilateral relationship between Korea and the United States before I became president. We had an agreement,” Mr. Bush said in a campaign event Monday as he spelled out how the United States delivered $350 million in fuel oil to persuade North Korea to adhere to the agreement.

“Part of the agreement was they couldn’t enrich uranium, and they enriched uranium. And my administration found it out. So I figured that, well, if one bilateral relation failed, maybe the next one won’t work, and tried to do something differently to get other nations.”

Mr. Kerry, however, has urged that the president abandon the stalled six-way talks and begin a one-on-one dialogue with Kim Jong-il.

Mr. Bush said that would be a mistake because pressure from six countries is better and more effective than from one.

“This time if Kim Jong-il decides to renege on any agreement, he’s not only showing disrespect for the United States, he’s showing disrespect for China. And my opponent says we need to go back to the old days of unilateralism with North Korea. It failed once; it will fail again. And so I believe we’re on the right path to [persuading] North Korea to give up its weapons,” Mr. Bush said Monday.

Three rounds of talks have been held in Beijing, but yielded little progress. A fourth round was set for September, but North Korea refused to attend.

In his discussion yesterday with the Chinese president, three weeks after former President Jiang Zemin stepped down as military chief, Mr. Bush “reiterated his commitment to a one-China policy,” Mr. McClellan said.

“He also reiterated his opposition to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and encouraged Beijing to look for opportunities for cross-strait dialogue.”

The United States recently irked China when it announced plans to build eight diesel-electric submarines for the breakaway nation as part of an $18 billion arms package. The package also includes anti-submarine airplanes and Patriot anti-missile systems, as well as ships equipped with advanced electronic battle management systems.

Mr. McClellan also said Mr. Hu committed to “move forward firmly and steadily to a market-based, flexible exchange rate.” For months, U.S. officials have lobbied their Chinese counterparts to commit to no longer linking their currency, the yuan, closely to the value of the dollar. The effort is intended to address the bulging U.S. trade deficits and nearly 3 million lost American manufacturing jobs.

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