Bush Says U.S. Won't Attack North Korea

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By TERENCE HUNT
The Associated Press
Thursday, October 12, 2006; 4:44 AM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush demanded stiff sanctions on North Korea Wednesday for its reported nuclear test and asserted the U.S. has "no intention of attacking" the reclusive regime despite its claims that it needs atomic weapons to guard against such a strike.

Still, in a Rose Garden news conference, Bush said the United States remains committed to diplomacy but also "reserves all options to defend our friends in the region."

He also vowed increased military cooperation with allies, including bolstering ballistic missile defenses in the region and increased efforts to prevent Pyongyang from importing missile and nuclear technology.

Bush rejected international appeals _ such as one made as he spoke by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan _ for the United States to hold one-on-one talks with North Korea, something the U.S. has refused to do.

In a news conference that lasted a shade over an hour, Bush defended anew his Iraq policy against rising calls, mostly from Democrats but also from some in his own party, to set a withdrawal timetable. "If we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy's coming after us," Bush asserted.

Bush conceded "tough times" in the wartorn country where sectarian violence has surged recently. But, he added, "It is in our interests that Iraq succeed."

With just four weeks before the midterm elections, Bush acknowledged that the war in Iraq is having a political impact. It is "tough on the American psyche," he said, repeating a phrase he had used before.

Bush said there were "loud voices" in the Democratic Party for him to withdraw troops. But, Bush said, he was not going to "get out before the job is done."

"I think the elections will be decided by security and the economy," he said. He pointed to signs of significant improvement in job creation, lower energy prices and tax cuts that he said are working. He opened his news conference by trumpeting new figures showing a big reduction in the U.S. budget deficit.

He predicted that his party would maintain control of both the House and Senate in next month's midterm elections. In the House, Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to gain control. In the Senate, they need six.

Bush issued strong support for embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert's handling of a scandal involving salacious Internet communications between former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and teenage male former congressional pages.

"I think the speaker's strong statements have made it clear to not only the party ... but to the country, that he wants to find out the facts," Bush said. "This is disgusting behavior when a member of Congress betrays the trust of the Congress and the family that sent a young page to serve."


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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