Sunday, November 19, 2006

HANOI — President Bush yesterday sought leverage among Asia-Pacific leaders today to pressure North Korea into resuming six-nation talks on its nuclear-weapons program.

“China is a very important nation, and the United States believes strongly that, by working together, we can help solve problems, such as North Korea and Iran,” Mr. Bush said as he sat down with Chinese President Hu Jintao today on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The full 21-nation APEC was expected to issue a statement urging North Korea to return to nuclear negotiations, which it has boycotted for the past year.

Earlier, Mr. Bush met with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, separately and then together, with North Korea also at the top of the agenda.

He was to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day.

Mr. Bush and the Japanese prime minister, in their first face-to-face talks since Mr. Abe replaced Junichiro Koizumi, agreed that world leaders should work together to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

“We agreed that we would take a coordinated approach to reach a final resolution of the issue and also to achieve some concrete results at an early stage,” Mr. Abe said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Roh stopped short of complete support for the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is aimed at intercepting North Korean ships. Seoul prefers a less confrontational approach as it tries to pressure its northern neighbor to re-enter six-party talks with the United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China.

But Mr. Roh vowed to implement “in a faithful manner” enforcement of a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans trade of goods and transfer of funds to the North, which could be used to expand its nuclear programs.

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said the United States is pleased with the consensus on North Korea.

The statement will reiterate concern about North Korea’s July 4 missile launches and its Oct. 9 nuclear test, the White House said. The statement also will urge North Korea to comply with a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions after the nuclear test, the White House said, and it will urge North Korea to return to the long-stalled six-party talks.

North Korea has said it will return, but no date has been set.

Mr. Hadley said the president, Mr. Roh and Mr. Abe discussed the need to use both pressure and incentives to try to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.

“I think there is a sense that, while there is patience required, there was also a shared view that we must not let North Korea use the six-party talks as an instrument for delay,” he said.

On another front, Mr. Bush and Mr. Abe agreed to work together on developing a missile-defense shield, which could prevent North Korea from striking Japan or the United States.

“One of the most interesting issues we discussed was our common desire to continue to cooperate on ballistic-missile defense,” Mr. Bush said.

The president spent the day meeting with APEC leaders to discuss free trade and world issues such as HIV/AIDS and avian flu. But before the forum meetings, the president visited the U.S. military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which recovers and identifies the remains of Americans killed in action in Vietnam but never repatriated.

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