N. Korea Urged to Drop Nuke Program
Oct. 27, 2002
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CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) _ Facing a crisis in Asia, President Bush joined with Japan and South Korea on Saturday to demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program ``in a prompt and verifiable manner.'' They pledged to resolve the standoff peacefully.
Bush also sought support for possible war with Iraq as Pacific Rim leaders stung by terrorism gathered for their annual summit. He received no firm commitments.
The president met with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the sidelines of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, a two-day summit of 21 leaders addressing terrorism's impact on people and economies across the globe.
``The three leaders called upon North Korea to dismantle this program in a prompt and verifiable manner and to come into full compliance with all its international commitments,'' read the statement from the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
Coming one day after Chinese President Jiang Zemin called for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, the three-nation statement gave Bush a show of momentum as he tries to mobilize public opinion against North Korea.
But it fell short of what some advisers had sought _ a firm condemnation of North Korea's actions _ and did not even hint at economic or other sanctions. Secretary of State Colin Powell said it is to early to talk about possible punishments for North Korea.
He also told reporters the United States has no plans to open negotiations with North Korea as U.S. officials gave mixed signals about Bush's plans to isolate the reclusive communist regime.
Advisers said Bush won't allow U.S.-North Korean talk for now because he does not want to reward Pyongyang for its illicit nuclear weapons program. At the same time, Bush welcomed plans by Japan and South Korea to open talks with Pyongyang.
Asked about the apparent inconsistency, Powell said: ``North Korea has isolated itself by this action.''
U.S. officials lobbied the full 21-member APEC for a statement on North Korea before the summit ends Sunday.
Earlier, Bush pressed his case with Mexican President Vicente Fox, who is hosting the summit at this upscale sports-fishing resort.
``The strategy is to make sure that our close friends and our allies and people with whom we've got relations work in concert to convince Mr. Kim Jong Il that a nuclear weapons-free peninsula is in his interests,'' Bush said.
On Iraq, Fox soft-peddled his nation's opposition to a U.S.-backed United Nations resolution.
``We are listening and talking and we want to search for and do everything possible for a strong resolution,'' the Mexican leader said.
Bush wants a resolution demanding that Iraq quickly get rid of its weapons of mass destruction or face consequences, potentially military action. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said it would be ``not very hard at all'' to assemble an international coalition to confront Saddam Hussein without U.N. help, if necessary.
Bush, however, seemed let Mexico and other nations off the hook for opposing him. Asked if rivals to his resolution would face consequences, Bush replied, ``The only consequence, of course, is with Saddam Hussein.''
Fox has accused Bush of ignoring immigration reform and other issues vital to the U.S.-Mexican relationship since the Sept. 11 attacks shifted America's focus to terrorism. Seated with Bush beneath a pastel painting of girls playing in fields of flowers, Fox softened his tone.
While he criticized U.S. farm subsidies all week, he spoke Saturday of negotiations between the two countries, which he said were making ``important progress.'' And while he has complained of lack of action in Washington on a migration accord, he said Saturday that he hoped for progress next year.
At a lavish dinner Saturday evening, Fox offered his condolences to ``the people and governments of Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia'' for recent fatal terror attacks, saying the deaths make the global war on terrorism ``all the more urgent and relevant.''
Terrorism was a leading issue at the summit.
The two highest-profile terrorist attacks of recent years _ the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Oct. 12 nightclub bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali _ took place in APEC nations. Other members of APEC, including Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, have been identified as possible havens for extremists linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled his trip to APEC, and talks in Mexico with Bush, to deal with the hostage crisis in Moscow started by Chechen insurgents who want Russian troops out of Chechnya. Russian special forces ended the siege _ called a terrorist act by Russian and U.S. officials _ by killing dozens of gunmen while freeing more than 700 captives.
In another summit sidebar, Bush met with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to press for a crackdown against terrorist groups. A senior administration official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said Bush praised steps taken by Indonesia since the Bali blast, but said ``there's still a ways to go'' in a nation that U.S. officials have accused of being complacent about terrorism.
In a separate session, Bush met with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and agreed to lay the groundwork for future trade agreements.
The joint statement with Japan and South Korea approved Tokyo's plans to hold talks with North Korea. Those negotiations, once aimed at normalizing relations, will now ``serve as important channels to call upon the North to respond quickly and convincingly to the international communities' demands for a denuclearized Korean peninsula.''
For his part, Bush said in the statement that the United States ``has no intention of invading North Korea.''