Bush cites progress in N. Korea talks

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President Bush today defended negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program, saying they have been effective, but added that the communist regime must give a full declaration of all its nuclear activities before the end of the year.

Some analysts said the president’s remarks indicate that the Bush administration has decided it will not move forward in talks unless North Korea discloses its role in helping Syria build nuclear facilities.

The six-party talks have delivered measurable results, Mr. Bush said, referring to the negotiations between North Korea, the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China.

Mr. Bush, speaking from the White House alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, said that while North Korea has begun to shut down its reactor at Yongbyon, hard work remains to be done.

North Korea has agreed to provide a full declaration of all its nuclear programs and proliferation activities by the end of this year, Mr. Bush said. Full declaration is one of the next steps North Korea must take to keep the six-party talks moving.

Richard C. Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Studies at the Brookings Institution, said the president appeared to be laying down a marker. I’m not sure that North Korea has agreed to provide a full declaration of its proliferation activities, Richard Bush said. I suspect that the words ‘proliferation activities’ are code for the Syria program, and we have decided we need an explanation of what was going on in Syria in order to close any deals. An Israeli airstrike inside Syria on Sept. 6 is suspected to have destroyed a partially constructed nuclear reactor of North Korean design, though the U.S. and Israeli governments have pointedly refused to discuss the strike. The Syrian government has not admitted that it was building nuclear facilities. An Oct. 3 document that was agreed to as part of the six-party talks does say that North Korea “committed not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how.” However, when the document discusses the declaration that North Korea will make, it says it “will include all nuclear facilities, materials and programs.” There is no mention of documenting proliferation activities. At an Oct. 17 press conference, Mr. Bush said that the issue of proliferation has equal importance with the issue of weaponry, and that North Korea has said that they will stop proliferating, just like they have said they will fully disclose and disable any weapons programs.” A State Department official said in an interview that the U.S. government is interested in the North Koreans telling us what they have and what they are doing, so we can know what they are telling us they’re going to stop. Mr. Fukuda’s remarks on North Korea focused on Japan’s wish that the U.S. not remove North Korea from their list of states sponsoring terrorism until North Korea releases Japanese nationals who have been abducted over the years. We will not forget the Japanese abductees, Mr. Bush said. Mr. Fukuda, in his first visit to the U.S. since being elected by the Japanese legislature in September, expressed support for Mr. Bush’s global warming agenda, which seeks to focus energy on new technologies that do not cripple large industries, rather than intrusive government regulation. And the Japanese prime minister also pledged to do his level best, according to a translator, to renew an agreement in which Japanese ships and planes help in refueling U.S. naval forces in the Indian Ocean, supporting the war in Afghanistan.

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