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US, South Korea Will Not Tolerate N. Korea's Nuclear Ambitions, say Presidents

The United States and South Korea say they will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea. Their joint statement follows a meeting in Thailand between U.S. President George Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. Both presidents say they are committed to a peaceful resolution of the crisis, but will not tolerate Pyongyang continuing to possess nuclear weapons.

In a joint statement following their breakfast meeting, President Bush and President Roh called for an early resumption of six-party talks to convince North Korea to verifiably and irreversibly eliminate its nuclear weapons program.

They called for concrete progress at the next round of those talks which include North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States.

President Bush is repeating his long-standing promise not to invade North Korea and is offering written security guarantees in exchange for Pyongyang giving up its weapons. Those guarantees will not be part of a formal non-aggression treaty that North Korea says is a pre-requisite for continuing six-party talks.

President Bush and President Roh urged North Korea to respond positively to these diplomatic efforts and to refrain from actions that could make the situation worse.

Meanwhile, North Korea test fired a land-to-ship missile off its eastern coast. A South Korean government spokesman said the missile firing was part of a routine military exercise and tried to downplay the incident, saying there have been three other such tests this year.

North Korea's state-run newspaper said Sunday the regional economic forum in Thailand is not the place to discuss its nuclear weapons program because the issue is one that should be decided between North Korea and the United States.

That is just the sort of bilateral focus the Bush Administration is rejecting because it says past agreements between the two countries were too easily broken.

Senior administration officials believe a multi-lateral security agreement would be harder for North Korea to violate because it would be breaking its word with Seoul, Beijing, Moscow, and Tokyo, as well as Washington

Russian President Vladimir Putin says more talks could yield positive results if North Korea's security concerns are addressed. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is backing the U.S. push for new negotiations, and Chinese President Hu Jintao says he is striving for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis.

While Washington recognizes that Pyongyang is holding-out for a formal non-aggression treaty, U.S. officials are hopeful Chinese authorities might be able to convince North Korea that multilateral security guarantees are the best they are going to get.