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Bush Urges North Korea to Accept Nuclear Verification


U.S. President George Bush is urging the North Korean government to agree to a strong verification of its nuclear program. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the comments came at a joint news conference in Seoul with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

President Bush says North Korea has work to do, and obligations to meet.

"They have to show us a verification regime that we can trust. This is a step by step process," he said.

Speaking at a joint news conference on the grounds of the South Korean presidential compound - known as the Blue House - Mr. Bush stressed once again that North Korean leader Kim Jung Il has a choice to make.

And he left no doubt he backs the multilateral approach to dealing with Pyongyang now in place through the so-called Six Party talks.

"I can't predict the North Korean leader's decision making. I don't know what he is going to do. But I do know that the best way to solve this issue is for five other nations to be saying the exact same thing," the president said.

He said there has been progress, noting North Korea's recent declaration of its plutonium enrichment activities and the destruction of the cooling tower at its Yongbyon reactor.

But he said that does not mean Pyongyang will definitely be lifted from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"It is going to require action on the leader of North Korea's part. It just doesn't automatically happen," President Bush said.

Mr. Bush talked at the news conference about the lack of human rights in North Korea. He also talked about basic freedoms in China.

The visit to Seoul marked the first stop on an Asian tour that will end in Beijing - where he will become the first sitting U.S. president to attend an Olympic Games outside the United States.

Critics have said he should boycott the games to protest China's human rights record.

But the president said he has called on Chinese leaders since taking office to grant greater freedom of expression and religion. And he stressed he does not need to use the Olympics to make a point.

"The reason I am going to the Olympics is two fold: to show my respect for the people of China. And two: to cheer on the US team," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush's reception at the Blue House was warm, in sharp contrast to the protests that greeted his arrival in Seoul Tuesday night.

There were actually two dueling demonstrations. One was pro-American. The other was made up of protesters angry about a decision by the Lee government to resume imports of American beef.

The only public mention of the demonstrators at the Blue House came as Presidents Bush and Lee sat down for their formal talks. When the South Korean president apologized for the raucous protests, Mr. Bush said he always enjoys coming to a free country where people are able to express their opinions.

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