Bush Urges Leaders to Unite Vs. N. Korea

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By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 5, 2006; 11:05 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush urged world leaders Wednesday to stand united in demanding that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program, saying the communist nation remains a threat even though its long-range missile plunged into the sea seconds after liftoff.

The administration said North Korea's barrage of seven test missiles further walled off the reclusive nation from the rest of the world.

"One thing we have learned is that the rocket didn't stay up very long and tumbled into the sea, which doesn't, frankly, diminish my desire to solve this problem," Bush said.

The South Korean press reported Thursday that the North had three or four more missiles on launch pads ready to be fired. The South's defense minister warned that additional missiles might be tested, according to one of the reports.

The U.N. Security Council met in emergency session a day after the test of the long-range missile. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the council must send a "strong and unanimous signal" that North Korea's missile tests were unacceptable.

Bush addressed the issue in a subdued manner without the harsh warnings he had issued last week threatening unspecified repercussions.

"It's their choice to make," Bush said in the Oval Office following a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

"I am deeply concerned about the plight of the people of North Korea," the president said. "I would hope that the government would agree to verifiably abandon its weapons programs."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said U.S. interest in the launch of the Taepondong-2 missile goes beyond the missile's possible reach to the American continent. "Certainly we have an alliance with Japan and we have an alliance with the Republic of Korea," Rumsfeld said.

At the United Nations, Japan, backed by the United States and Britain, circulated a resolution that would impose sanctions against North Korea and call for a return to six-party talks on its nuclear program. But China and Russia, which both have veto power on the Security Council, said they favored a weaker statement.

Bush reiterated his view in phone calls Wednesday night with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, stressing the need for a unified response in the United Nations and elsewhere to the North's missile tests, the White House said in a statement. He also told the leaders that he seeks a diplomatic solution through the six-party talks, which had sought to deal with North Korea's nuclear ambitions but were suspended last fall.

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conducted urgent talks on the phone with foreign ministers in China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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