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Bush, S. Korean president united on talks


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun presented a united front Friday on getting North Korea to return to six-party talks about Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal, with both leaders saying their alliance remains "strong."

"South Korea and the United States share the same goal, and that is a Korean Peninsula without a nuclear weapon, and that's what we've been discussing -- how best to do that," Bush said.

Bush added that he and Roh both agree "the six-party talks are essential to saying to Mr. Kim Jong Il that he ought to give up his weapons." The six-party talks would involve North Korea, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States

Roh said questions had abounded about possible differences between the United States and South Korea on the best approach, but Bush put him at ease.

"Every time I meet you, Mr. President, in person, I come to the realization that there indeed is no difference between our two sides with regard to the basic principles," Roh said. "In fact, we are in full and perfect agreement on the basic principles."

He added, "Whatever problem arises in the course of our negotiations and talks, we will be able to work them out under close consultations."

Roh said he was "very certain" the U.S.-South Korean alliance remained strong and will "continue to remain solid and staunch in the future."

To that end, Bush said, "I would say the alliance is very strong, Mr. President. And I want to thank you for your frank assessment."

Friday's meeting marked the fourth time the two leaders have met face-to-face, with this trip being Roh's second to Washington.

Earlier this week, North Korea told the United States it was willing to return to the six-party talks. But officials said Pyongyang did not provide a time frame.

However, China's ambassador to the United Nations said the meetings could resume within "the next couple of weeks."

A statement issued Wednesday by KCNA, the official North Korean news agency, quoted North Korea's foreign minister as saying the resumption of the talks depends on Washington.

He was quoted in the KCNA report as saying, "As for the resumption of the six-party talks, it entirely depends on the U.S. response to the DPRK's call for creating conditions and an environment for their resumption."

The North Korean government withdrew in 2002 from its nuclear agreements and restarted a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which had been shut since 1994. It also kicked out U.N. inspectors and monitors.

Although North Korea had agreed to six-party talks on the nuclear issue, it opted out of those talks last September, saying the United States has a "hostile" policy toward it.

In February, Pyongyang declared it had nuclear weapons and would continue boycotting the six-party talks indefinitely unless Washington were to agree to one-on-one talks. The Bush administration has refused to do so, saying the issue affects the entire region and, therefore, other parties should be included as well.

It has been a year since the last round of six-way talks. In March, the United States threatened to take North Korea to the U.N. Security Council -- a move opposed by Pyongyang.


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