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Bush talks tough on North Korea

Kim, Bush
South Korea President Kim Dae-jung with President Bush  

WASHINGTON -- South Korea's hopes for a quick resumption of negotiations to end North Korea's missile program have been dashed by the new Bush administration.

Rather than continue the Clinton initiative, President Bush made it clear, in a meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung Wednesday, that he viewed North Korea as a threat.

"Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea is there's not very much transparency." - George W. Bush

Bush pointedly questioned whether the reclusive Communist state would honor any new arms control pact.

South Korea Thursday supported former president Clinton's belief that negotiations could stop North Korea's missile exports and halt its long-distance missile program.

Instead Washington has taken a harder line.

"We look forward to at some point in the future having a dialogue with the North Koreans but ... any negotiation would require complete verification," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office with Kim at his side.

"Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea is there's not very much transparency. We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements," Bush added.

The only comfort for the South Korean President came from Bush aides insisting there was support for the "sunshine" policy of rapprochement as long as the Republican administration could be convinced the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would keep his word.

However for public consumption both sides tried to play down differences.

The South Korean leader said he was grateful for Bush supporting his policy, adding that he had not asked the United States to resume the missile talks with Pyongyang.

"On North Korea, yes, there are many problems that remain but President Bush has clearly expressed his strong support for our efforts to further the dialogue with North Korea," Kim told reporters.

"I do have some skepticism about the leader of North Korea but that's not going to preclude us from trying to achieve the common objective (for peace in Korea)," Bush said.

North and South Korean technically remain at war following the end of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armed truce rather than a formal peace agreement. The United States has 37,000 troops in South Korea.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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