- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday called on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and return to the negotiating table, which it abandoned a year ago.

“South Korea and the United States share the same goal, and that is a Korean Peninsula without a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Bush said in an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Roh. “Today’s meeting should make it clear that South Korea and the United States are of one voice on this very important issue.”

But while Mr. Roh said the United States and South Korea agree “on the basic principles,” he acknowledged “there are one or two minor issues” of disagreement.

These include the question of how aggressively to push North Korea to restart six-party talks with the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. Mr. Bush has grown impatient with Pyongyang and might seek sanctions from the United Nations, while Mr. Roh favors a softer approach in hopes of thawing relations with North Korea.

Both leaders appear to have resigned themselves to the fact that Pyongyang has developed several nuclear weapons since Mr. Roh last visited the White House in May 2003. At that time, the leaders issued a joint statement vowing they “will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.”

Asked why that statement was not reiterated yesterday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “I don’t want to get caught up in all the semantics.”

That did not satisfy the Democratic National Committee, which said North Korea’s nuclear proliferation was evidence of Mr. Bush’s incompetence on the world stage.

“Despite the fact that North Korea presents the most significant nuclear proliferation threat since the end of the Cold War, Bush’s track record on this issue is one of inaction and division,” the DNC said in a statement. “Even as the Bush administration claims to be making progress, the increasingly dangerous situation in North Korea continues to worsen.”

But Mr. Bush said North Korea was given a very generous offer a year ago to resume six-party talks, and he made it clear he would not sweeten the offer.

“We’re still awaiting the answer to that proposal,” he said. “The plan is still there and it’s full of inducements.”

Seeking to minimize differences with his South Korean counterpart, Mr. Bush expressed solidarity with Mr. Roh in the quest to eliminate North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s nuclear program.

“The president and I both agree the six-party talks are essential to saying to Mr. Kim Jong-il that he ought to give up his weapons,” he said. “The way to join the community of nations is to listen to China and South Korea and Japan and Russia and the United States.”

Mr. Roh expressed confidence that he and Mr. Bush will resolve their differences.

“There are, admittedly, many people who worry about potential discord or cacophony between the two powers of the alliance,” he said. “Whatever problem arises in the course of our negotiations and talks, we will be able to work them out under close consultations.”

Mr. Bush also used yesterday’s meeting to express condolences for a U.S. military vehicle killing a South Korean woman.

“We send our deepest sympathies to the woman’s family,” he said. “And Mr. President, I just want you to know our hearts are sad as a result of this incident.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bush selected retired Vice Adm. John Redd to run the National Counterterrorism Center, a clearinghouse of intelligence that was created after September 11. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Redd would replace Interim Director John Brennan.

“He’s a man of enormous experience,” the president said of Mr. Redd during a visit to the center in McLean. “He has served our country with distinction. He’ll be a good boss. He’ll be a person that will be able to carry on the tradition of John Brennan.”

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