- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska President Bush yesterday warned North Korea not to join forces with terrorist organizations, vowing the United States will not allow "dangerous regimes to threaten freedom with weapons of mass destruction."
During a short refueling stop in Anchorage on the way to his trip to Asia, the president said the U.S.-led war on terrorism will not stop until "we have destroyed terrorism, until we have denied the threat of global terrorism."
"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to the future of our nation is that these kind of terrorist organizations hook up with nations that develop weapons of mass destruction," said Mr. Bush.
The United States and its allies must prevent "nations that have got a dark history and an ugly past" from developing such weapons.
"We expect them, and so do other freedom-loving countries, to change their behavior. But if they do not, the United States will do what it takes to defend our freedom, make no mistake about it," Mr. Bush said to cheers from several hundred U.S. airmen.
The president, who yesterday crossed the International Dateline and arrived today in Tokyo, will hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before traveling to South Korea to speak with some of the 38,000 U.S. soldiers at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) before ending his weeklong trip in Beijing.
"We're going to Japan and South Korea and China, where I'm going to continue to work with the leaders of those countries in our mutual concerns, starting with fighting the war against terror; making it clear that the resolve of this nation is steady and strong. To be able to look these leaders in the eye and say, 'When it comes to defending freedom, the United States of America will not blink,'" he said.
In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 29, Mr. Bush labeled North Korea one of three nations that make up an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran. Several Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle criticized the president's words, saying they prevent a constructive engagement with those three rogue nations.
But Mr. Bush said yesterday he still holds out hope the United States can persuade those nations to join the civilized world.
"We would like for them to change their ways, and we'll continue to pressure them to do so. We would like for them to conform to normal ways of treating their own people, plus their neighborhood, plus the world," said Mr. Bush.
But he said the United States will not stand idly by as the "axis of evil" perpetrates terror on the world.
Although the trip is expected to include such issues as reviving the anemic Japanese economy and improving U.S.-Chinese relations, it is likely to be dominated by Mr. Bush's tough stance toward the reclusive, communist regime in North Korea.
Mr. Bush yesterday criticized Pyongyang for refusing to engage in dialogue with the United States.
"I made an offer to have dialogue with North Korea, and they didn't accept," Mr. Bush told Asian reporters before leaving Washington. "So I guess the main impediment is they don't want to have a dialogue."
Before departing Washington, Mr. Bush said the DMZ is "one of the most dangerous places on Earth, where barbed wire marks a line dividing freedom and oppression."
He praised South Korea for "reaching out to the North in a spirit of friendship and reconciliation," but added: "Yet I will remind the world that America will not allow North Korea and other dangerous regimes to threaten freedom with weapons of mass destruction."
On China, Mr. Bush said he will urge President Jiang Zemin to open up his nation to trade.
"I can't wait to talk to the Chinese leadership about getting them to honor their agreements for the American farmers and ranchers to be able to sell our foodstuffs into China. … There's many, many mouths in the world to be fed. And if I do my job by opening up markets, U.S. farmers and ranchers are going to feed them," he said.
Mr. Bush who flew on Air Force One into an Anchorage snowstorm with Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican yesterday also made a pitch for his national energy plan. The president reiterated his support for drilling oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), taking aim at his critics who charge that it would damage the environment.
"Listen, we need to be exploring for oil and gas in ANWR," Mr. Bush said to applause.
"Oh, I've heard them all in Washington. I've heard all the skeptics say, 'Well, you can't do that. It's going to ruin this or that.'"
"Listen, there is no doubt in my mind, there's no doubt in your governor's mind, there's no doubt in the congressional delegation's mind, there's no doubt in the minds of people who take a sound, scientific look at this, that we can do so without endangering the environment, that we can find energy for America's people and at the same time preserve the beauty of Alaska," said Mr. Bush.
The president's Asia trip had originally been slated for October but was postponed after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.


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