- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

CAMP DAVID, Md. President Bush today rejected the notion that the U.S. has lowered the bar for North Korea’s declaration of nuclear activity, pushing back against criticism from a former top administration official.

The North Koreans, Mr. Bush said, “have yet to make a full declaration.”

“Why don’t we just wait and see what they say before people go out there and start giving their opinions about whether or not this is a good deal or a bad deal?” he said, during a press conference at his Camp David retreat with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Mr. Bush said that critics of his approach to Pyongyang which include John Bolton, the presidents former top counter proliferation official at the State Department are “jumping ahead of the game.”

Mr. Bolton, who was also the presidents ambassador to the United Nations in 2005 and 2006, has turned on the Bush administration in the last year.

Mr. Bolton insists that Mr. Bush has allowed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to derail a hardline approach towards North Korea.

After the White House said this week that North Korea would be allowed to declare its nuclear proliferation activities in a separate declaration that would remain secret, Mr. Bolton said the administration is now in full retreat.

Dennis Wilder, the presidents top Asia adviser, insisted on Thursday that a North Korean declaration of nuclear bomb-making activities would not be decoupled from a declaration on passing along nuclear technology or materials to other countries.

No one has let them off the hook with that declaration, Mr. Wilder said.

But Miss Rice said this week that she would only disclose a sense of what the North Koreans had revealed about past proliferation, and offered to brief Congress.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il had committed to provide a “full declaration,” which the U.S. said for months included proliferation, by the end of 2007.

Mr. Bolton said in a phone interview that the key issue remains whether the U.S. will take North Korea off the state sponsors of terrorism list without verifying that they have destroyed all nuclear weapons and all bomb-making facilities.

Mr. Bush today simply said to wait and see, and did not address the issue of separate agreements for nuclear production and nuclear proliferation.

There’s all kinds of rumors about what is happening and what’s not happening. Obviously I’m not going to accept a deal that doesn’t advance the interests of the region, Mr. Bush said. Mr. Bush indicated that he might not have been pleased with all the disclosures this week by Mr. Wilder and Miss Rice. He compared U.S. and North Korean press freedoms to make the point that in the U.S., government officials talk to the press more openly. But when the president said that there’s all kinds of people in the administration talking and sharing information with you — some of it authorized, some of it’s not, he looked over at the delegation of U.S. officials, which included both Miss Rice and Mr. Wilder. Miss Rice could be seen after the press conference speaking animatedly with White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

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