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5/22/03 - NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN NORTH KOREA - 2003-05-23

President George W. Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun reaffirmed that they "will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea":

"We discussed the need to have a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula. We're making good progress toward achieving that peaceful resolution of the issue in regards to North Korea."

Last October, North Korea admitted that it had a covert program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. It expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in December, and announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in January. On February 27th, North Korea restarted a nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon facility, beginning a process that could enable it to produce material for nuclear weapons. North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons violates its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the North-South Denuclearization Agreement.

Called to account for these violations, North Korea responded with threats and escalatory steps. On February 25th, the same day Roh Moo Hyun was sworn in as South Korea's president, North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan. North Korea has threatened the world with "nuclear disasters." It claims to have nuclear weapons and says it may produce more. It threatens to "demonstrate" in some fashion that it has a nuclear bomb and says it might "transfer" nuclear weapons to other countries.

The U.S. and its allies will not be intimidated or blackmailed by North Korea. The U.S. will stand by its commitments to South Korea. A cornerstone of stability and peace in Asia is the U.S.-South Korea alliance. It was forged fifty years ago, after the U.S. and other United Nations countries had stood with South Korea in repelling North Korean aggression. President Roh assessed the state of the alliance:

"We have reached agreement that the Korea-U.S. alliance has been maintaining its strength over the past fifty years and it will become only stronger in the coming fifty years, or even more."

The U.S. and South Korea have shared many dangers and challenges. North Korea's leaders should understand this. And they should understand also that they have to end their nuclear weapons program.