HANOI — President Bush failed to win South Korea’s support today for an inspection plan aimed at intercepting ships suspected of carrying supplies for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
During talks before the opening of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Mr. Bush tried to persuade South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to fully implement sanctions imposed on North Korea after it tested a nuclear device on Oct. 9.
Mr. Roh said that his country “is not taking part in the full scope” of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which calls for the stopping of suspect ships headed for North Korea. However, he said South Korea supports the “principles and goals of the PSI,” and will cooperate in preventing the transfer of material for weapons of mass destruction.
South Korea has only been an observer to the program, fearing its direct participation could lead to armed clashes with its neighbor.
Mr. Bush downplayed the disagreement, saying he appreciates South Korea’s help in solving the nuclear standoff with North Korea.
“I appreciate the cooperation we’re receiving from South Korea for the Proliferation Security Initiative,” he said. “Our desire is to solve the North Korean issue peacefully.”
White House press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged that Mr. Roh faced political pressure not to anger North Korea.
Mr. Bush “understands political constraints,” Mr. Snow said.
Yesterday, after arriving in Hanoi, the president urged patience regarding the war in Iraq, saying the Vietnam War taught the United States inspecting there will be no “instant success.”
“We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while,” Mr. Bush said after meeting with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, an ally in the Iraq war.
Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, was quick to jump on Mr. Bush’s “instant success” remark.
“The president seems to be suggesting that the American people don’t have patience and that they’re looking for ‘instant success’ in Iraq,” Mr. Murtha said. “We’re going into our fourth year of a failed strategy. That doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of ‘instant.’ ”
After suffering a blow last week when Republicans lost control of the House and Senate, the president urged critics to hold fast to the job at hand, expressing confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“We’ll succeed unless we quit. The Maliki government is going to make it unless the coalition leaves before they have a chance to make it. And that’s why I assured the prime minister we’ll get the job done,” he said.
But Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat who was elected this week as majority whip for the next Congress, dismissed Mr. Bush’s calls for patience.