- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

CRAWFORD, Texas President Bush accused Kim Jong-il yesterday of starving North Koreans and said that U.S. allies are quietly pressuring Pyongyang to halt development of nuclear weapons.
"Kim Jong-il is somebody who starves his people," Mr. Bush said in response to a question from The Washington Times. "I have no heart for somebody who starves his folks."
Mr. Bush disputed a reporter's suggestion that North Korea's neighbors are wary of calling on the leader of the secretive communist state to disarm.
"I don't think the countries are reluctant," Mr. Bush said at his Texas ranch. "Well, they may be putting pressure on and you just don't know about it.
"But I know they're not reluctant when it comes to the idea of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. And we are in constant contact with the Japanese and the South Koreans and the Chinese and the Russians."
Mr. Bush reiterated his aversion to using military force to resolve the standoff.
"I believe the situation with North Korea will be resolved peacefully," he said. "It's a diplomatic issue, not a military issue, and we're working all fronts."
But even as he called for diplomacy, he criticized Mr. Kim for breaking a 1994 promise to stop developing nuclear weapons. The Bush administration discovered the breach last year and confronted North Korea, which admitted that it had been secretly developing weapons all along.
"It's important for the American people to remember the history of Kim Jong-il," Mr. Bush said. "He created some international tension, and the United States of America went and signed an agreement with him."
The president pointed out that the agreement called for the United States and other nations to "provide fuel oil and help, and, in return, he would not enrich uranium."
"Well, it turns out he was enriching uranium," Mr. Bush added. "And we blew the whistle on the fact that he was in violation of the '94 agreement."
The United States and its allies responded by cutting off the oil aid. North Korea then upped the ante by declaring last month that it would reactivate its plutonium-based nuclear program.
Mr. Kim's reclusive and unpredictable regime then removed monitoring seals and cameras from nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. This week, Pyongyang expelled inspectors from the United Nations who monitored those facilities. It also has hinted that it would withdraw from a global nuclear-arms-control treaty.
Instead of threatening military force, the United States is considering economic sanctions against North Korea. But the White House is unlikely to cut off food aid to the impoverished nation.
"The United States of America is the largest one of the largest, if not the largest donor of food to the North Korean people," Mr. Bush said. "And one of the reasons why the people are starving is because the leader of North Korea hasn't seen to it that their economy is strong or that they be fed."
Although China has been widely portrayed as reluctant to challenge North Korea, Mr. Bush pointed out that Beijing last year declared its opposition to nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
The declaration came during a U.S.-China summit at the president's ranch.
"It was right here at this spot when Jiang Zemin, the leader of China, and myself got together and put out a joint declaration that we expect for the Korean Peninsula to be nuclear-weapons free," Mr. Bush said. "And that was a serious statement."
Athough the administration has vowed to use diplomacy, Pyongyang has said it suspects that the United States eventually will use military force. The Associated Press reported yesterday that North Korea's state media said Pyongyang would not give in to U.S. pressure.
"If the United States tries to settle the issue with [North Korea] by force, [North Korea] has no idea of avoiding it," said government newspaper Minju Joson in a report carried on the country's foreign news outlet, Korean Central News Agency.
It said North Korea's army was strong and ready to fight.


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