President Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak say they are still hopeful that North Korea will disclose the details of its nuclear weapons program, as required under a 2007 six-party accord. Pyongyang is more than three months late in disclosing the details of that program. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the U.S. and South Korean leaders met at the presidential retreat at Camp David.
President Lee said the international community needs what he called persistent patience with North Korea, that it will be difficult to convince the reclusive nation to give up its nuclear weapons, but not impossible.
|South Korean President Lee Myung-bak , left, speaks as President Bush listens during a joint press conference at Camp David, Maryland, 19 Apr 2008|
President Lee and President Bush spoke to reporters at Camp David, reaffirming their commitment to the multi-lateral effort to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Speaking through a translator, President Lee said South Korea, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan are determined to reach that goal.
"Both of us reaffirmed once again that under no circumstances would we allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons," he said. "Also, we agreed to work together closely within the six party talks so that North Korea can fully and completely give up all their nuclear weapons programs as soon as possible."
As part of the six-party deal, North Korea agreed to provide by last December a full declaration of all its nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment and proliferation. In exchange for giving up its nuclear program, including weapons, Pyongyang is to get economic aid and diplomatic benefits.
But the declaration has not been delivered. President Bush said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may be stalling for time.
"One thing about a non-transparent society where there is not a lot of free press, for example, or a lot of opposition voices it is hard to tell what is going on," he said. "He has made declarations and he is testing the relationship. He is wondering whether or not the five of us will stay unified."
The president is hearing criticism from within his own political party, including from former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who has accused the administration of capitulating to Pyongyang on what North Korea must disclose.
Mr. Bush said the burden of proof remains on Pyongyang.
"They've made some promises and we will make a judgment as to whether they have met those promises," he added. "And then we and our partners will take a look at North Korea's full declaration to determine whether or not the activities that they promised they could do can be verified, and then we will make a judgment of our own about our own obligations."
President Bush said people should wait and see what North Korea says before judging the deal. On Sunday, the U.S. is sending a team to North Korea for more talks on the declaration.
At the news conference, President Bush also said Congress should approve a free trade agreement with South Korea this year. He told Mr. Lee the agreement is a priority for his administration.