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Bush Cautiously Welcomes N. Korean Nuclear Declaration



U.S. President George Bush says he is ready to lift some sanctions against North Korea and drop it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, after Pyongyang submitted a long-awaited declaration on its nuclear activities. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.

President Bush says multilateral negotiations with North Korea on the nuclear issue have always been based on the premise of action for action.

He says, now that Pyongyang has submitted its nuclear declaration, the United States is living up to its end of the bargain.

"I am issuing a proclamation that lifts the provisions of the Trading With the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea," the president said. "And secondly, I am notifying Congress of my intent to rescind North Korea's designation as a state sponsor of terror in 45 days."

But the president stresses he has no illusions about the nature of the North Korean regime, and he makes clear he remains suspicious of its intentions.

He says North Korea has much more to do, adding the declaration is the first step in a long journey.

"It must dismantle all of its nuclear facilities, give up its separated plutonium, resolve outstanding questions on its highly enriched uranium and proliferation activities and end these activities in a way that we can fully verify," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush notes Pyongyang's intention to destroy the cooling tower of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor on Friday in front of television cameras. He says North Korea is making good choices at the present time, and urges the government of Kim Jung Il to stay on that path.

"This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea. If North Korea continues to make the right choices, it can repair its relationship with the international community, much as Libya has done over the past few years. If North Korea makes the wrong choices, the United States and our partners in the six-party talks will respond accordingly," he said.

The president spoke during a hastily arranged appearance in the White House Rose Garden. Under questioning from reporters, he strongly defended the multilateral diplomatic approach he has taken in dealing with North Korea - which he once declared part of an "axis of evil."

He said direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang did not work, and he realized the only way to get results was to work together with China, South Korea, Russia and Japan in the so-called six-party talks.

"We have worked hard to put multilateral diplomacy in place, because, the United States sitting down with Kim Jung Il did not work in the past," the president said. "Sitting alone at the table just didn't work."

Critics say the declaration provided by North Korea falls short of the Bush administration's original demands. It does not, for example, give a detailed accounting of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons arsenal.

White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says the declaration does, however, meet an administration priority by detailing plutonium production.

"It is the plutonium program that produced plutonium that was in the weapons that North Korea tested in 2006. And it is the plutonium infrastructure that, if it is not dismantled, can churn out additional nuclear materials for nuclear weapons," Hadley said.

Hadley says getting the facts about the plutonium program and getting the infrastructure dismantled, is essential. He says the declaration hopefully provides an opening that will ultimately allow other concerns - such as proliferation - to be addressed in a timely cooperative fashion.

The president's national security advisor also underscores the administration's ongoing skepticism about Pyongyang's intentions. He says North Korea must understand sanctions can be reimposed or even increased if it opts for confrontation in the future.

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