President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun say they are committed to resolving the nuclear stand-off with North Korea diplomatically. Mr. Bush says the United States wants security on the Korean peninsula.
President Bush says North Korean leader Kim Jung Il's refusal to return to six-party talks on the nuclear issue has only strengthened the determination of the United States, South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Following Oval Office talks with the South Korean leader, Mr. Bush said there is clearly a better way forward for North Korea if it verifiably gives up nuclear weapons.
"The incentive is for Kim Jung Il to understand there is a better way to improve the lives of his people than being isolated," he said. "That stability in the region is in his interest, the ultimate interests for the people of North Korea to be able to benefit and for families to be able to have food on the table."
President Roh says South Korea and the United States are consulting closely on ways to restart those six-party talks.
The two leaders have differed in their approach to the government in Pyongyang with President Bush pushing tougher sanctions and President Roh trying to engage the North Koreans with economic incentives.
President Roh this week acknowledged that difference in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saying he is "quite aware" of concerns about the state of bilateral relations.
At the White House, Mr. Roh was asked about concerns among South Korean voters that further U.S. sanctions could worsen the nuclear stand-off. He said it is not an appropriate time to talk about those possible sanctions as diplomats are working hard to restart talks.
Speaking through an interpreter, President Roh said South Korea is complying with trade restrictions imposed by a July U.N. Security Council resolution against Pyongyang following North Korean missile tests.
"Because we do not want to hurt the inter-Korean relations, we do not label these measures as sanctions, [but] we are in fact taking measure tantamount to sanctions after the North Korean missile launches," Mr. Roh said. "That is we have suspended rice and fertilizer aide to North Korea."
President Bush and President Roh also discussed the long-sought transfer of wartime command from the American to the South Korean military. There are currently about 30,000 U.S. troops in the country who still officially control South Korean defenses as there is no formal peace treaty ending the Korean War.
President Bush says he and President Roh agreed that transfer should not be politicized and they will continue to consult on an appropriate hand-over date.
"Decisions about the placement of our troops and the size of our troops will be made in consultation with the South Korean government," he said.
President Bush also thanked the South Korean leader for sending 3,000 troops to Iraq.