Tags: Bush | Heads | Korea's | DMZ

Bush Heads to Korea's DMZ

Tuesday, 19 February 2002 12:00 AM

Aides said the president is prepared to demonstrate the plight of North Korea with a night satellite photograph showing how few electric lights shine in that communist regime.

On his second day on the Korean peninsula, Bush has scheduled bilateral meetings with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, 76, holder of the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded in 2000 in recognition of Kim's lifelong battle against repressive regimes that dominated South Korea for decades.

It was Kim's dedication to a reunited Korea that led him to engage in the most hopeful contacts with North Korea. Some here fear that Bush's "axis of evil" remark will disupt his effort.

Since Bush landed in Asia on Sunday, Bush has softened his "axis of evil" rhetoric, stressing that the North Korean regime is betraying its own starving people by its concentration on military buildup.

Senior administration officials said Bush today will try to persuade Kim that describing North Korea's dangerous ballistic missile development and efforts to obtain nuclear weapons with "candor" can assist in persuading Pyongyang that it cannot remain isolated from the world.

The president's charge, including North Korea as being an "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. North Korea charged earlier this week that Bush was trying to kindle a new Korean war.

Bush is scheduled to travel to Observation Post Ouellette today, 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 grew on the north side.

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

Dorasan is a symbol of President Kim's effort to find reconciliation with North Korea. Shortly after an inter-Korean summit in June 2000, the Republic of Korea, South Korea's formal name, and the so-called 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.

"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."

In his visit to Japan, Bush mounted a vigorous defense of the "axis of evil" charge last month, saying 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 the United States 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 Junichiro 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, saying 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."

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 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.

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 wanted 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 Jong 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.

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Aides said the president is prepared to demonstrate the plight of North Korea with a night satellite photograph showing how few electric lights shine in that communist regime. On his second day on the Korean peninsula, Bush has scheduled bilateral meetings with South...
Tuesday, 19 February 2002 12:00 AM
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