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Bush Sending Envoy to North Korea for Security Talks - 2002-09-25

The Bush Administration is sending an envoy to North Korea to discuss the country's weapons program. President Bush made the announcement in a telephone call Wednesday with South Korean Leader Kim Dae Jung.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says a U.S. envoy will travel to North Korea at what he calls "an early date" for the first security talks between the countries in two years.

President Bush discussed the issue with the South Korean leader Wednesday morning. Mr. Fleischer says they both agreed that concerns over North Korean weapons programs must be resolved before further progress can be made in improving relations.

"The two leaders agreed that real progress with the North depends on full resolution of the security issues on the Korean peninsula, including the North's possession and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles," Mr. Fleischer said.

Mr. Fleischer says President Bush still believes North Korean weapons programs are a threat to the region. Despite designating North Korea as part of the "axis of evil," the president has repeatedly said he is ready to reopen talks with Pyongyang "any time, any place, with no preconditions."

The United States and North Korea appeared close to resuming talks earlier this year, but those efforts broke down following naval combat between North and South Korea in July.

The decision now to send a U.S. envoy follows Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to North Korea last week. The Japanese leader urged Mr. Bush to resume talks with North Korean leader Kim Jung Il.

The Bush Administration wants to discuss the sale of North Korean missile technology, its large conventional army, and its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.