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President Bush Rules Out Military Attack on North Korea

President Bush on Wednesday said the United States had no intention of pursuing military action against North Korea and would continue to follow a diplomatic path to ending North Korea's nuclear program.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The president states his case on North Korea and Iraq. We start with excerpts from his news conference this morning in the White House Rose Garden.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: In response to North Korea's actions, we're working with our partners in the region and the United Nations Security Council to ensure there are serious repercussions for the regime in Pyongyang.

    I've spoken with other world leaders, including Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia. We all agree that there must be a strong Security Council resolution that will require North Korea to abide by its international commitments to dismantle its nuclear programs.

    This resolution should also specify a series of measures to prevent North Korea from exporting nuclear or missile technologies and prevent financial transactions or asset transfers that would help North Korea develop its nuclear and missile capabilities.

  • JOURNALIST:

    You talk about failures of the past administration with the policy towards North Korea. Again, how can you say your policy is more successful, given that North Korea has apparently tested a nuclear weapon?

  • GEORGE W. BUSH:

    My point was bilateral negotiations didn't work. You know, I appreciate the efforts of previous administrations. It just didn't work. And therefore, I thought it was important to change how we approached the problem so that we could solve it diplomatically.

    If North Korea decides that, you know, they don't like, you know, what's being said, it's not — they're not just stiffing the United States — I don't know if that's a diplomatic word or not — but they're sending a message to countries in the neighborhood that they really don't care what other countries think, which leads to further isolation.

    And when we get a U.N. Security Council resolution, it will help us deal with issues like proliferation and his ability — "he" being Kim Jong-Il's — ability to attract money to continue to develop his programs.

  • JOURNALIST:

    I want to ask you a little bit about — I want to follow on the criticism that you've received for the suggestions from Senator Warner and from James Baker, and now Olympia Snowe. This is not exactly the board of directors for MoveOn.org. Do you…

  • GEORGE W. BUSH:

    That's true.

  • JOURNALIST:

    Do you feel in some way that there is some shift going on, in terms of the general support for the war in Iraq and your strategy specifically? And do you ever feel like the walls are closing in on you, in terms of support for this?

  • GEORGE W. BUSH:

    Jim, I understand how hard it is. And I also understand the stakes.

    And let me go back to Senator Warner. Senator Warner said, if the plan isn't working, adjust. I agree completely. You know, I haven't seen Baker's report yet, but one of the things I remind you of is that I don't hear those people saying, "Get out before the job is done." They're saying, "Be flexible." And we are.

    And so, for those folks saying, you know, make sure there's flexibility, I couldn't agree more with you. And I think the characterization of, you know, stay the course is — is about a quarter right. "Stay the course" means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is don't do what you're doing if it's not working. Change. "Stay the course" also means don't leave before the job is done. And that's — we're going to get the job done in Iraq.

  • JOURNALIST:

    You said yesterday in your statement that the North Korean nuclear test was unacceptable. I'm wondering, sir, your administration has issued these kinds of warnings pretty regularly over the last five years, and yet these countries have pursued their nuclear programs.

    I'm wondering if you — what is different about the current set of warnings? And do you think the administration and our government runs a risk of looking feckless to the world by issuing these kinds of warnings regularly without, you know, response from the countries?

  • GEORGE W. BUSH:

    That's a fair question. First of all, I am making it clear our policy hasn't changed. It's important for the folks to understand that we don't continually shift our goals based upon, you know, polls or — whatever.

    See, I think clarity of purpose is very important to rally a diplomatic effort to solve the problem. And so I try to speak as clearly as I can and make sure there's no ambiguity in our position.

    And to answer your question as to whether or not, you know, the words will be empty, I would suggest that, quite the contrary, that we not only have spoken about the goals, but as a result of working together with our friends, Iran and North Korea are looking at a different — you know, a different diplomatic scenario.

    I thought you were going to ask the question, how come you don't use military action now? And my answer is that I believe the commander-in-chief must try all diplomatic measures before we commit our military. And I believe that diplomacy is — you know, we're making progress when we've got others at the table.

    You know, I'll ask myself a follow-up. If that's the case, why did you use military action in Iraq? And the reason why is because we tried the diplomacy. We tried resolution after resolution after resolution. All of these situations are — each of them different and require a different response, a different effort to try to solve this peacefully. And we'll continue to do so.