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Bush And Roh Recommit To Six-Party Talks To End North Korea Nuclear Crisis

US President George W. Bush with South Korean counterpart Roh Moo-hyun. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington, Sept 14 (AFP) Sep 14, 2006
US President George W. Bush and his South Korean counterpart Roh Moo-hyun downplayed their differences and recommitted themselves to six-party talks aimed at defusing the North Korea nuclear crisis.

"We reaffirmed our commitment to the six-party talks so that we can peacefully deal with the nuclear issue," Bush said during a joint public appearance with Roh in the Oval Office of the White House.

Bush urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to abandon his atomic weapons program in exchange for energy and other aid as well as diplomatic and security guarantees in the interest of his people and "for families to be able to have food on the table.

"The incentive is for Kim Jong-il to understand that there is a better way to improve the livelihood of his people than being isolated," he said.

Bush stressed that North Korea's refusal to return to talks "has really strengthened" the resolve of the other five negotiating parties -- South Korea, Russia, China, the United States and Japan.

He said while the five nations were determined to solve this nuclear issue peacefully, they recognized the "threat posed by a country in the region armed with a nuclear weapon.

"If he (Kim) were to verifiably get rid of his weapons programs, there's clearly a better way forward," Bush said.

The United States and South Korea have been split on efforts to end the nuclear impasse since North Korea walked out of the talks 10 months ago.

Washington wants to step up financial and other sanctions on North Korea while South Korea is aiming to continue aid and investment to its neighbour to woo it away from isolation.

Roh said it was "not the appropriate time" to discuss about stepping up sanctions on Pyongyang and "think about the possibility of a failure of the six party process."

He said the two countries were "working very hard" and "consulting on ways to restart the six party process" and that "this is the important point."

But Roh indicated that differences persisted, saying, "We have not yet reached a conclusion" and "this issue is very complex."

North Korea abandoned the six-party talks in November last year in protest against US financial sanctions on a Macau-based bank accused of laundering and counterfeiting money for the North.

Two months earlier, it had agreed at the meeting to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for aid and other guarantees.

The situation worsened in July when Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles, sparking condemnation from the UN Security Council which imposed sanctions related to the missile program.

The two leaders on Thursday also grappled with the troubled Washington-Seoul military alliance, saying they were against politicizing a move for South Korea to regain wartime control over its army from the United States.

Amid increasing calls from South Korea to have independent control of its military, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested recently that it take wartime control of its troops in 2009, three years earlier than wanted by Seoul.

"We will work in a consultative way at the appropriate level of government to come up with an appropriate date," Bush said Thursday. "I agree with the president that the issue should not become a political issue."

He said the United States was committed to the security of the Korean peninsula and that decisions about the placement of American troops and their size would be made in consultation with the South Korean government.

The US wartime operational rights have been the backbone of bilateral security ties since 1950 when US troops deployed to the Korean peninsula to repel North Korean invaders from South Korea.

About 32,500 US soldiers are stationed at present in Seoul to help 650,000 South Korean military troops face up to North Korea's 1.2 million-strong army.

The United States plans to reduce its forces in South Korea to 25,000 by 2008 and is seeking flexibility to deploy them elsewhere in times of need.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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South Korean President Under Growing Pressure Over Wartime Powers Grab
Seoul (UPI) Sep 14, 2006
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is facing mounting pressure at home to give up his push to regain wartime control of the country's military from the United States. A growing number of people -- from war veterans to scholars, lawyers to former diplomats -- have staged rallies protesting Roh's plan, saying it would jeopardize the security alliance with the United States which has served as the key deterrent against North Korean attack.

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