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US Aid to N. Korea May Resume if Pyongyang Suspends Nuclear Program - 2003-01-14

U.S. President George W. Bush is holding out the possibility of resumed aid to North Korea if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear program.

The president says he was considering a substantial aid package last year, before a 1994 agreement between the United States and North Korea fell apart.

"I had instructed our secretary of state to approach North Korea about a bold initiative, an initiative which would talk about energy and food because we care deeply about the suffering of the North Korean people," Mr. Bush said.

He says those plans were suspended when North Korea reneged on its 1994 promise to suspend programs that could lead to the development of nuclear arms.

"And the decision they made was to ignore international norms, ignore treaties or agreements they had reached and start building potential nuclear weapons, enriching uranium," the President added.

Speaking to reporters at the beginning of a meeting with the President of Poland, Mr. Bush signaled the aid plan could be revived if North Korea steps back.

"If they so choose to do so, their choice, then I will reconsider whether or not we will start the bold initiative that I talked to Secretary Powell about," he said.

President Bush did not offer specifics about the size or type of aid package envisioned. And he stressed he is not interested in negotiating with North Korea, indicating instead that if Pyongyang goes back to the days before the nuclear dispute began, the United States might be willing to do the same.

"People say 'are you willing to talk to North Korea?' Well, of course we are," he continued. "But what this nation won't do is be blackmailed, and what this nation will do is used this opportunity to bring the Chinese and the Russians and the South Koreans and the Japanese to the table to solve this problem peacefully."

Earlier, the Bush administration welcomed China's offer Tuesday to help resolve the nuclear dispute by hosting talks between the United States and North Korea.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said a unified message is being sent to North Korea. But at the same time, he stopped short of calling the Chinese overture a breakthrough. When asked if it might help bring about a solution, Mr. Fleischer said "we hope so."