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News: North Korea for prompt nuke dismantlement

News from Korean media sourcesRoh, Bush press North Korea for prompt nuke dismantlement
GYEONGJU - Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday reasserted that a nuclear-armed North Korea will not be tolerated and North Korea should eliminate its nuclear weapons programs "promptly and verifiably."

Underlining their "strong alliance," the two presidents acknowledged the "steady development of the ROK-U.S. relationship into a comprehensive, dynamic and mutually-beneficial alliance."

Speaking before the press after about an hour-long summit discussion, Roh and Bush said they also agreed to launch a dialogue called Strategic Consultation for Allied Partnership at the ministerial-level to consult on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. The two leaders agreed to have the first strategic dialogue at the beginning of 2006.

U.S. President George W. Bush addressing a joint news conference with President Roh Moo-hyun after their summit in Gyeongju yesterday. [Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald]

"Through the discussion, I felt like the ties between the two countries have never been better," Bush said in his speech, adding that any relations come with complexities but the important point is the will to solve the complexities. Roh and Bush met in the ancient city of Gyeongju on the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum being held in Busan this week. Bush arrived in Korea on Wednesday.

This was their fifth official summit talk since Roh's inauguration and a second meeting in five months following Roh's brief trip to Washington in June.

The two leaders will travel to Busan to attend the final summit forum opening today and tomorrow.

In an effort to herald the alliance that was recently speculated as being bumpy, the two presidents closed their official talks with a joint declaration containing most of the points considered crucial in the two countries' relations, such as their joint efforts to end the nuclear standoff and introducing a peaceful regime on the peninsula.

President Bush reaffirmed his government's position against giving energy compensation first to North Korea before its dismantlement procedure by saying, "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."

Since the closing of the Joint Statement of principles in September, North Korea has been demanding it be given the light-water reactor first in order to enter its dismantlement procedure, a notion strongly opposed by the United States.

The two leaders agreed that discussions on a peace regime should take place among directly-related parties in a forum separate from the six-party talks, which would later lead to a declined military threat and increased confidence on the peaceful intentions of the Korea-U.S. alliance.

To a reporter's question whether there was any plan to arrange an inter-Korean summit meeting in the near future, President Roh replied that while holding the summit with the North would be a significant event, it should not be forced for the mere showmanship but carefully arranged for the context.

The two leaders reviewed the U.S. military force realignment agreements and agreed that it will further enhance the combined defense capability and said the U.S. forces in Korea was essential for the peace and stability of the peninsula and Northeast Asia.

President Roh and President Bush, in particular, highlighted agreements on the relocation of USFK bases including Yongsan Garrison, and the partial reduction of USFK, which was accomplished after years of conflict.

President Bush expressed appreciation for the assistance that Korean troops are giving to a swifter establishment of peace and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan and the two agreed to continue cooperating in fighting the global war on terror and dealing with various international security issues including transnational crimes.

In regard to economic cooperation, the two leaders unilaterally showed support to the success of the upcoming World Trade Organization Ministerial conference and the conclusion of the Doha development agenda negotiations.

President Bush promised to develop a visa waiver program roadmap to assist Korea in meeting the requirements for membership in the program.

Touching on the future of the six-party talks involving key forces in Northeast Asia including China, Japan and Russia, the two leaders agreed that the negotiation framework could develop into a regional multilateral security consultative mechanism once the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved.


By Lee Joo-hee

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