- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

BUSAN, South Korea — President Bush today urged Asian leaders to remain unified in forcing North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons program, as South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun declared that a nuclear-armed peninsula “will not be tolerated.”

The two presidents also agreed that talks should be held on establishing a final peace treaty to replace the “temporary” cease-fire that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.

Meeting with the South Korean president at a lakeside resort in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of Korea, the president said all parties should be steadfast in resisting a nuclear buildup by North Korea.

“I see a peninsula one day that is united and at peace,” Mr. Bush said. “There’s a real possibility that by working together, at some point in time the peninsula will be united and at peace.”

Mr. Roh went further, saying that North Korea must immediately give up its nuclear ambitions and return to negotiations with the leaders of the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.

“With regard to the North Korea nuclear issue, we reiterated that a nuclear-armed North Korea will not be tolerated, and reaffirmed that the issue should be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means,” he said.

Mr. Roh met with Mr. Bush yesterday for bilateral talks, afterward saying that discussions about the North Korea nuclear standoff were “quite lengthy.”

The two men met ahead of a 21-nation trade and economic summit whose members include the five countries negotiating with North Korea.

The South Korean leader called the bilateral talks “constructive,” noting that he and Mr. Bush agreed that the second phase of the fifth round of six-party talks should be held as soon as possible in order to find a breakthrough in resolving the conflict.

“We have no disagreements at all that this issue must be resolved,” Mr. Roh said. “And we were quite optimistic that it would be able to be resolved in the framework of the six-party talks.”

Mr. Roh has been negotiating on his own with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il for a reconciliation with the North. Mr. Bush expressed support for Mr. Roh’s continued negotiation, but said North Korea must continue with multiparty negotiations.

At a previous round of talks in September, the parties issued a joint statement of principles in which North Korea promised to scrap its nuclear programs in exchange for energy assistance and other benefits.

But a day later, North Korea insisted it would not dismantle its nuclear arsenal before the United States supplied it with a light-water atomic reactor to generate electricity.

Mr. Bush rejected the caveat today, saying the U.S. would discuss the issue, but only after North Korea had disarmed.

“The issue really is the light-water reactor. Our position is that we will consider the light-water reactor at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is after they have verifiably given up their nuclear weapons and/or programs,” he said.

The presidents of the United States and South Korea agreed that talks should be held on replacing the armistice.

On establishing a new peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War, the two presidents said in their joint statement that “peace-treaty talks should improve confidence and reduce military tension on the Korean Peninsula.”

The two Koreas remain technically at war because they have never signed a peace treaty.

“Going beyond the resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue, we both felt that a strong peace structure in place [would serve] not only to reduce tensions, but also to build permanent peace and trust in order to create a new future for the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Roh said.

The two leaders also discussed South Korea’s continued military support in Iraq.

Mr. Roh has been a major supporter of Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy and his nation is the third-largest contributor of troops behind the United States and Britain, deploying more than 3,000 soldiers.

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