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Bush Pleased by North Korea's Return to Talks

George Bush
President Bush says he is pleased that North Korea has agreed to return to talks aimed at ending the country's nuclear weapons program. Mr. Bush met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard to talk about North Korea and the war in Iraq.

President Bush says he told Prime Minister Howard that America is working to resolve the dispute with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il peacefully.

"I told him that we are committed to solving the North Korean nuclear issue in a diplomatic way, and that we are pleased that the six-party talks have become renewed," the president said. "And that we are sincere about working with China and South Korea and Japan and Russia to bring some common sense to the leader of North Korea."

President Bush says North Korea must verifiably and irreversibly stop developing nuclear weapons. He is hoping the multi-lateral talks, especially with pressure from China, will convince Pyongyang to abandon its weapons program.

North Korea says it needs those weapons to deter a possible U.S. invasion. The Bush administration says it has no intention of invading North Korea and is willing to make that promise in writing as part of the six-party talks.

President Bush and Prime Minister Howard also discussed the war in Iraq, where Australia has 1,300 troops on the ground. Asked when those troops might return home, Prime Minister Howard said that depends on how soon Iraq's new government can establish its own security and enact a national constitution. Until then, the troops will stay.

"We are engaged together in quite a struggle against some forces and elements of evil around the world that threaten, not only the people of our countries, but also the people of other nations," he said. "Terrorists indiscriminately murder people irrespective of their race, their nationality, their religion, their political party, or their political belief."

Prime Minister Howard has been one of the president's closest allies in the war in Iraq. After their meeting, he and his wife Janette had lunch with the president and Mrs. Bush in the White House residence.