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Bush Pays Visit to US Troops in Korean DMZ - 2002-02-20

President Bush is visiting U.S. troops along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Mr. Bush says he has no intention of invading North Korea, despite his portrayal of the country as a threat to world peace.

Driving past tank lines and mine fields, President Bush arrived at South Korea's fortified border with the North. He looked through binoculars into a land he says is part of an "axis of evil."

Following a meeting earlier Wednesday with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, Mr. Bush called North Korean leaders "despotic" for allowing their own people to starve, while the military develops weapons of mass destruction. The president repeated his concerns that North Korea threatens world peace because it could help terrorists acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

But Mr. Bush says neither the United States nor South Korea have any intention of attacking North Korea. He says both he and President Kim agree that dialogue is the best way to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula. President Bush hopes North Korean leaders take up South Korea's offer to improve relations as part of President Kim's "sunshine policy." "I support his sunshine policy, and I am disappointed that the other side, the North Koreans, will not accept the spirit of the sunshine policy," says Mr. Bush.

Speaking through an interpreter, President Kim told reporters there is no major conflict between his sunshine policy and President Bush's warnings about North Korean weapons of mass destruction. "I believe that the U.S. policy and the Korean policy are fundamentally similar, and there are no major differences," he says. "We both believe in democracy and market economy."

President Kim says South Korea and the United States both want to engage North Korean leaders in a dialogue over lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula. "We were able to reaffirm that we have made the proposal to North Korea to dialogue, and it is through dialogue that we hope to resolve all the issues," he says. "And, so, we hope that North Korea will at an early date accept our proposal, and that inter-Korean dialogue, and dialogue between North Korea and the U.S., will resume."

President Bush says he is willing to open talks with North Korea, but says the burden of proof rests with the country's leader, Kim Jong-il, to prove that he is not a threat to the south. "I will not change my opinion on Kim Jong-il until he frees his people and accepts genuine proposals from countries, such as South Korea, or the United States, to dialogue, until he proves to the world that he has a good heart, that he cares about the people who live in his country," says Mr. Bush. "I am concerned about a country that is not transparent, that allows for starvation, that develops weapons of mass destruction."

Following his trip to the demilitarized zone, Mr. Bush meets with more U.S. troops Thursday morning, before leaving for China on the last stop of his week-long trip to Asia.