- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

President Bush yesterday urged the nations of the U.N. Security Council to send a unified message to North Korea in response to its missile launches and telephoned the leaders of Russia and China in an attempt to persuade them to drop initial opposition to sanctions.

The president said he does not know the intent of dictator Kim Jong-il, but warned the world’s most powerful countries that “we’ve got to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

“We’re dealing with a person who was asked not to fire a rocket by the Chinese, the South Koreans, the United States, the Japanese and the Russians, and he fired seven of them,” the president told reporters during a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As condemnations poured in from nations around the world over North Korea’s missile launches on the Fourth of July, the communist regime reacted indignantly, asserting a right to develop and test weapons — and vowing unspecified retaliation against anyone who stands in the way.

“Our military will continue with missile launch drills in the future as part of efforts to strengthen self-defense deterrent,” said a statement by North Korea’s foreign minister, carried in state-run media. “If anyone intends to dispute or add pressure about this, we will have to take stronger physical actions in other forms.”

The foreign minister didn’t specify what action would be taken.

Mr. Bush, seeking to consolidate opposition to the missile launches, said the United States must carefully weigh the dangers posed by North Korea.

“We take this seriously … and we all should take threats seriously,” the president said. “That’s one of the lessons of September the 11th, is that what takes place in other parts of the world can come home to hurt the American people. See, a failed government in Afghanistan enabled plotters and planners to train them and come and kill 3,000 of our citizens.”

After the missile tests, China and Russia voiced opposition to imposing sanctions. The two Security Council members, both of whom have veto power, preferred a statement criticizing Pyongyang, but not sanctions. The council yesterday held a second day of emergency talks on what action to take against North Korea.

“I was on the phone this morning with [President] Hu Jintao and President [Vladimir] Putin,” Mr. Bush said. “My message was that we want to solve this problem diplomatically, and the best way to solve the problem diplomatically is for all of us to be working in concert, and to send one message, and that is — to Kim Jong-il — that we expect you to adhere to international norms, and we expect you to keep your word.”

Mr. Hu told Mr. Bush he opposed “anything that would threaten peace and stability” on the Korean Peninsula, White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

In a separate phone call Mr. Putin told Mr. Bush that the North Korean situation would now be on the agenda for a Group of Eight summit he is hosting next week in St. Petersburg, Mr. Snow said.

“The two of them also talked about working together as part of the six parties and within the context of the G-8 and also the U.N. Security Council to develop a unified approach and message on the issue,” Mr. Snow said.

All seven of the missiles test-fired this week fell harmlessly into the Eas Sea/Japan Sea, including a Taepodong-2 missile, which was supposed to be capable of reaching U.S. soil but broke up less than a minute after takeoff, according to U.S. officials.

In yesterday’s statement, North Korea claimed success, made no mention of the apparent Taepodong failure and disputed Mr. Bush and other leaders who have said North Korea had agreed not to test-fire missiles.

“The successful missile launches were part of our military’s regular military drills to strengthen self-defense,” the statement read. “As a sovereign country, this is our legal right, and we are not bound by any international law or bilateral or multilateral agreements.”

At the United Nations, differences persisted over a Japanese-backed draft resolution to sanction North Korea. U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said the measure had “broad and deep support,” but Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador said Moscow would not back sanctions, as the resolution calls for.

Instead, Russia wants the council to pass a nonbinding presidential statement with the goal of getting North Korea back into six-party talks on its nuclear program.

While agreeing that North Korea’s missile tests were a provocative act, Mr. Harper said Canada was not ready to reopen discussions about joining the U.S. missile shield. The shield involves basing missiles capable of taking out incoming missiles launched by terrorists or rogue states — although the system isn’t designed to foil a mass attack by a major power.

Opponents of the missile defense program — including former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — contend it won’t work and risks starting a new international arms race. Mr. Bush said he did not broach the issue with Mr. Harper, whose Conservatives defeated Mr. Martin’s Liberal Party in January.

Mr. Snow said the United States and its allies were insistent that they would not allow the missile tests to force them into making concessions to North Korea beyond what already has been offered during the stalled negotiations involving the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

“If they think there’s going to be a reward for this kind of activity, they’re wrong. That’s a miscalculation,” the White House spokesman told reporters. “There’s absolutely no daylight between the negotiating partners on that.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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