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Bush in Thailand for Foreign Policy Speech, Meetings on Burma

U.S. President George Bush is using his visit to Thailand to focus attention on the situation in neighboring Burma and to access U.S. relations with the region. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson has this report from Bangkok, the latest stop on the president's Asian tour.

President Bush is using his visit to Thailand as an opportunity to assess the evolution of U.S. relations with East Asia during his two terms in office.

In a major foreign policy speech he is scheduled to deliver on Thursday, he is expected to criticize Beijing's human rights record and the plight of the people of Burma.

Mr. Bush will also discuss the situation in Burma when he meets with Burmese activists. First Lady Laura Bush is also taking up the theme of Burma with a trip to the Thai-Burmese border.

Another trouble spot President Bush will talk about in the speech is North Korea. He will repeat the call he delivered during his earlier stop in Seoul for Pyongyang to verify it is tearing down its nuclear weapons program.

The need for a tough verification regime was a subject Mr. Bush brought up time and time again during a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

"I am concerned about North Korea's human rights record," he said. "I'm concerned about its uranium enrichment activities, as well as its nuclear testing and proliferation, its ballistic missile programs. And the best way to approach and answer those concerns is for there to be strong verification measures."

Mr. Bush indicated he has doubts Pyongyang will ever totally come clean about its nuclear ambitions and verifiably shut down its weapons and proliferation activities. And he urged North Korea to live up to all the promises made to its negotiating partners on the nuclear issue: the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

"I don't know whether or not they're going to give up their weapons. I really don't know. I don't think either of us knows," he said. "I know this: that the six-party talks is the best way to convince them to give up their weapons."

He stressed North Korea will remain under international sanctions until it fulfills its denuclearization obligations. And he made clear that even removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism - a move eagerly anticipated by Pyongyang - will not be automatic.

For his part, President Lee urged patience.

"And as to what kind of behavior North Korea will take, what's most important is, number one is that we must have a denuclearization of North Korea," he said. "So I will be patient, I will be consistent, and I will do my best."

Before leaving Seoul, Mr. Bush also stopped at a U.S. military garrison in the city - a facility that will soon be transferred to the South Korean government.

He talked about the progress that has been made in democratic South Korea, drawing a contrast with conditions to the north.

"And there's no place on Earth that more clearly demonstrates the contrast between free and open societies, and repressive, closed societies than the Korean Peninsula," he said. "No better place to see an example between the beauty of freedom and the hope of freedom, and the difficulties with repressive and closed societies. And South Korea takes its rightful place on the world stage; North Korea traps its people in misery and isolation."

President Bush wasted to time getting down to business in Bangkok after his arrival from Seoul, sitting down for talks with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

"The United States and Thailand are working to expand freedom with good governance," he said. "I want to thank you very much and congratulate the people of Thailand for restoring its democracy.

From Thailand, Mr. Bush travels to Beijing where he will become the first sitting U.S. president to attend an Olympic Games on foreign soil.