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President Bush Opens Two-Day South Korea Visit

BY Admin  February 19, 2002 at 4:10 PM EDT

The visit comes on the heels of President Bush’s January State of the Union speech, during which he accused neighboring North Korea of being a part of an “axis of evil” with Iran and Iraq.

The president accused the three countries of developing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorist groups.

Many in the region consider Bush’s words inflammatory, and during a speech to Japan’s parliament this morning, the president spoke of striving towards “a fellowship of free Pacific nations.”

While he did not specifically mentioning North Korea, the president said, “We seek a peaceful region where the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction do not threaten humanity.”

Mr. Bush plans to hold talks with South Korea’s President Kim Dae-jung. According to aides, he hopes to convince the leader that his view of the North need not conflict with improving U.S.-South Korean relations.

President Bush’s criticism stands in contrast to President Kim’s “sunshine policy” aimed at opening serious talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Opponents of President Bush’s more hard-line approach to the North protested in parliament and on the streets ahead of his arrival. Hundreds of protestors have massed near the U.S. Embassy over the last week and some 60 demonstrators clashed with police outside the base where the president arrived.

An altercation broke out in the South Korean parliament on Monday, when ruling party lawmaker Song Sok-Chan called President Bush, “evil incarnate, who wants to make the division of Korea permanent.” President Kim rebuked Sok-Chan for his remarks.

President Kim will welcome President Bush to his official residence, the Blue House, on Wednesday morning, for talks that will focus on reconciliation between North and South Korea.

Following these talks, President Bush will travel to a U.N. observation post on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.

North Korea, which has not responded to South Korea’s latest appeal for renewed peace talks, has not offered official comment on the president’s visit. State-controlled Radio Pyongyang, however, continues to speak of President Bush’s “axis of evil” comment as war-inciting.

“If the U.S. imperialists and Japanese reactionaries should provoke the second Korean War, to the end, our military and people will attack them with 100 times to 1,000 times of revenge,” the Radiopress agency in Tokyo quoted Radio Pyongyang as saying.