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S. Korea, Japan, US Call on N. Korea to Dismantle its Nuclear Weapons Program - 2002-10-26

South Korea and Japan have agreed to work with the United States to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The leaders met with President Bush Saturday on the sidelines of an economic summit in Mexico.

The three countries called on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in a "prompt and verifiable manner."

A written statement following President Bush's talks with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stressed the leaders' commitment to resolving the matter peacefully.

President Bush says he wants a common approach to convincing North Korean President Kim Jung-Il to give up his nuclear weapons program.

"The strategy is to make sure that our close friends and our allies and people with whom we have got relations work in concert to convince Mr. Kim Jung-Il that a nuclear-weapons-free peninsula is in his interests, it is in South Korea's interests, and it is in the world's interest," explained Mr. Bush.

The leaders said North Korea stands to benefit from greater participation in the international community but those benefits now rest on Pyongyang's "prompt and visible actions" to dismantle efforts to produce highly enriched uranium.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out Washington is ready to help North Korea if it moves to lower military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

"If you will stop these missile development activities, if you will do something about the large conventional force that hangs over the 38th parallel," he said, "then there are great opportunities for you to benefit from a willing world that wants to help you get out of the economic distress you are in and the poverty your people are suffering."

Secretary Powell says there will be no economic assistance for Pyongyang unless it abides by a 1994 agreement to scrap its nuclear weapons program in exchange for nuclear power plants and other aid.

"They violated agreements they had entered into," he said. "And so that violation has to be dealt with. You can't violate an agreement and then show up and say, 'We violated this agreement. What will you pay us for this violation in order to get out of the violation?'"

North Korea says it wants a "non-aggression pact" with the United States to resolve the nuclear weapons issue. A Foreign Ministry statement Friday said that pact must recognize North Korean sovereignty and give assurances that Washington will not hinder economic development.

Secretary Powell says the United States has no intention of taking military action against North Korea.

"There are lots of tools that available to us," he added. "And we want to make sure that we move deliberately, we move with patience, that we do not create a crisis in the region, but that we move with determination that their program must be dismantled."

North Korea admitted to its nuclear weapons program earlier this month when confronted by a senior U.S. diplomat during the first high-level security talks between the countries in two years.