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Bush arrives in South Korea

Tuesday, 19 February 2002 12:00 AM

The president's charge including North Korea as one "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq has provoked street demonstrations in Seoul over the past several weeks, including ones as recently as Tuesday.

Air Force One landed at K-16 airport, a Republic of Korea military airfield seven miles southeast of Seoul, shortly before 5 p.m. local time (approximately 3 a.m. EST.) The president and First Lady Laura Bush went immediately to the U.S. Embassy where the president will reside until his formal meetings with Kim Wednesday.

Bush is scheduled to travel to Observation Post Ouellette Wednesday, a U.S. military outpost that overlooks the joint security area that divides North and South Korea. Visibility of the security area has declined over the years as vegetation grows on the north side.

Later Wednesday, the president is to fly by helicopter to the Dorasan train station located about one-third of a mile south of the southern boundary of the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, the area that has divided this peninsula since an armistice halted fighting in July 1953.

Dorasan is a symbol of President Kim's effort to achieve reconciliation with North Korea. Shortly after an inter-Korean summit in June 2000, the Republic of Korea, South Korea's formal name, and the Democratic Republic of Korea, the north's title, agreed to reconnect the Seoul-Sinuiju railway and construct a highway between the cities of Munsan in the south and Kaeson in the north.

Southern military engineers have completed construction south of the DMZ, according to information provided by the White House, but North Korea has not yet begun construction north of the DMZ. The station is part of that construction.

Tuesday, the president addressed the Japanese Diet, the nation's national legislature, telling the members and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that America, "like Japan," is a Pacific nation and he is convinced that the 21st century will be the "Pacific century," appearing to shift the U.S. strategic view from Europe and the Atlantic community to Asia.

"We stand more committed than ever to forward presence in this region," the president said. "We will continue to show American power and purpose in support of the Philippines ... Australia and Thailand. We will deter aggression against the Republic of Korea" and "remember our commitments to the people of Taiwan."

Bush said Japan and America "share a vision for the future of the Asia-Pacific region as a fellowship of free Pacific nations."

There were pointed warnings for North Korea in Bush's address, a nation the president last month labeled as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq.

"We seek a region where the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction does not threaten humanity," the president said, and "no power or coalition of powers endangers the security or freedom of other nations ... where military force is not used to resolve political disputes."

Shortly after addressing the Diet, the president and Mrs. Bush met with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko Shoda at the historic 13th-century Imperial Palace, where Akihito's father lived during World War II.

In his visit to Japan, President Bush mounted a vigorous defense of the "axis of evil" charge last month, claiming that "history has given us a unique opportunity to defend freedom" and halt nations with weapons of mass destruction from linking up with terrorists "and we are going to seize the moment to do it."

In the clearest language yet, Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the U.S. is forming what Powell called a "great coalition" to "take political, diplomatic and other actions to stop them."

The issue arose at a news conference Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi after Bush completed a three-hour state meeting with the Japanese leader. Though the news conference was devoted in part to U.S.-Japanese issues, Koizumi gave the president's accusation against Iraq, Iran and North Korea clear support, claiming he thought it "reflects the firm resolve of President Bush and the United States against terrorism." He said Bush had been "very calm and cautious vis-à-vis Iraq, Iran and North Korea," and he "will resort to all possible means to fight against terrorism."

Japan will be with the U.S., Koizumi said.

Later, a senior administration official said that the U.S. wants the Japanese to pass along Bush's concerns about Iranian weapons of mass destruction to "see if" the Iranian moderates can get other elements of the Tehran government "under control." He said Japan still has diplomatic relations with Iran and can help Washington sort out what is going on there.

The official said in a background briefing that the U.S. has "passed along that message to other friends of ours who have good relations with Iran, that what we see in Iran leaves us confused.

"We don't know whether we're seeing a struggle between good cops and bad cops ... or whether we see an Iran that's undergoing a genuine transformation." The official would not name other U.S. allies that are carrying this message, but several countries including Switzerland and Turkey have embassies there.

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that explaining Bush's inclusion of North Korea in the "axis of evil" would be the central topic in discussions between Bush and President Kim.

"This is what really the trip is all about, on to South Korea, is to communicate directly between President Kim Dae Jung and President Bush," the official said.

The Japanese language service of the British Broadcasting Corporation carried an extensive report Sunday about Iran reform party members who felt the president's attack undermined their efforts to keep the government on a moderate tack. The report said that the Teheran government had detained some 150 suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members who had come across the border and said Teheran opposed any effort to destabilize the new government in Kabul.

Bush touched off the furor in his State of the Union address on Jan. 29 when he accused North Korea, Iraq and Iran of being an "axis of evil." Bush said the link between the countries is their aggressive development of weapons of mass destruction.

When he was preparing to leave for Asia last week, the president was asked about U.S. intentions for North Korea. In a transcript of the session provided by the White House, Bush said he was still open to dialogue, but he wants North Korean officials to remove the "guns pointed at Seoul" and open the country's military installations to outsiders to show that it is not building an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

"If they were to abandon their proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in a transparent way, so we would know" there were no arms, "we would welcome trade," Bush said.

The president has stressed in media interviews that the United States is sending food aid to North Korea, even as his administration admonishes its government.

"I can't tell you how sorry I feel for the North Korean people," Bush said. "My heart breaks for people who live in a society that is not free, and where there is tremendous starvation." Bush maintains that if the government of North Korean strongman Kim Chong-il was not pouring his country's resources into weapons, it could feed its people. On Thursday, Bush is scheduled to fly to China.

"America, like Japan, welcomes a China that is stable, prosperous, and at peace with its neighbors," Bush told the Japanese Diet. "In the United States, China will find a partner in trade. China will find the respect it deserves as a great nation."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The president's charge including North Korea as one axis of evil along with Iran and Iraq has provoked street demonstrations in Seoul over the past several weeks, including ones as recently as Tuesday. Air Force One landed at K-16 airport, a Republic of Korea military...
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Tuesday, 19 February 2002 12:00 AM
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