Bush Cautiously Welcomes N. Korean Nuclear Declaration

26 June 2008

U.S. President George Bush says heis ready to lift some sanctions against North Korea and drop it fromthe U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, after Pyongyang submitteda long-awaited declaration on its nuclear activities. VOA's PaulaWolfson reports from the White House.

President Bush says multilateral negotiations with North Korea on thenuclear issue have always been based on the premise of action foraction.

He says, now that Pyongyang has submitted its nuclear declaration, the United States is living up to its end of the bargain.

"I am issuing a proclamation that lifts the provisions of the TradingWith the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea," the president said."And secondly, I am notifying Congress of my intent to rescind NorthKorea's designation as a state sponsor of terror in 45 days."

But the president stresses he has no illusions about the nature of theNorth Korean regime, and he makes clear he remains suspicious of itsintentions.

He says North Korea has much more to do, adding the declaration is the first step in a long journey.

"It must dismantle all of its nuclear facilities, give up its separatedplutonium, resolve outstanding questions on its highly enriched uraniumand proliferation activities and end these activities in a way that wecan fully verify," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush notes Pyongyang's intention to destroy the cooling tower ofits Yongbyon nuclear reactor on Friday in front of televisioncameras.  He says North Korea is making good choices at the presenttime, and urges the government of Kim Jung Il to stay on that path.

"This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea. If North Koreacontinues to make the right choices, it can repair its relationshipwith the international community, much as Libya has done over the pastfew years. If North Korea makes the wrong choices, the United Statesand our partners in the six-party talks will respond accordingly," hesaid.

The president spoke during a hastily arranged appearance in the WhiteHouse Rose Garden. Under questioning from reporters, he stronglydefended the multilateral diplomatic approach he has taken in dealingwith North Korea - which he once declared part of an "axis of evil."

He said direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang did notwork, and he realized the only way to get results was to work togetherwith China, South Korea, Russia and Japan in the so-called six-partytalks.

"We have worked hard to put multilateral diplomacy in place, because,the United States sitting down with Kim Jung Il did not work in thepast," the president said. "Sitting alone at the table just didn'twork."

Critics say the declaration provided by North Korea falls short of theBush administration's original demands. It does not, for example, givea detailed accounting of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons arsenal.

White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says thedeclaration does, however, meet an administration priority by detailingplutonium production.

"It is the plutonium program that produced plutonium that was in theweapons that North Korea tested in 2006. And it is the plutoniuminfrastructure that, if it is not dismantled, can churn out additionalnuclear materials for nuclear weapons," Hadley said.

Hadley says getting the facts about the plutonium program and gettingthe infrastructure dismantled, is essential. He says the declarationhopefully provides an opening that will ultimately allow other concerns- such as proliferation - to be addressed in a timely cooperativefashion.

The president's national security advisor also underscores theadministration's ongoing skepticism about Pyongyang's intentions. Hesays North Korea must understand sanctions can be reimposed or evenincreased if it opts for confrontation in the future.