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Bush: US Wants Diplomatic Solution to N. Korean Crisis - 2002-12-31

President Bush says he wants to resolve a crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program without resorting to military action. North Korea Tuesday, expelled two U.N. inspectors who were monitoring a facility that the international community believes can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon.

President Bush said he is continuing to pursue a common "diplomatic approach" with China, Japan, and South Korea to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Speaking to reporters near his Texas ranch, Mr. Bush said there is a "strong consensus" among neighboring states and the international community that North Korea must be made to comply with its obligations to stop producing nuclear weapons.

"I believe this can be done peacefully through diplomacy and we will continue to work that way," he said. "All options, of course, are always on the table for any president, but by working with these countries, we can resolve this."

North Korea Tuesday accused Washington of plotting an invasion. President Bush says he has no intention of using military force on the Korean peninsula where there are more than 37,000 U.S. troops already in South Korea.

"I believe this is not a military showdown. This is a diplomatic showdown and we can resolve this peacefully," he went on to say.

President Bush has discussed the situation with South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-hyun who Mr. Bush says has agreed to visit Washington after he has taken office.

Mr. Roh Tuesday criticized possible U.S. sanctions against North Korea saying he is skeptical that they would "ever contain North Korea or make it surrender." He said Washington should consult "fully" with South Korea, rather than making what he called a unilateral decision "and then expecting South Korea to follow it."

Concern over North Korean weapons has grown since officials admitted to a U.S. diplomat earlier this year that they had restarted a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 accord with the United States.

North Korea is also prevented from developing those weapons under the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea's ambassador to Russia Tuesday, indicated that Pyongyang is prepared to withdraw from that treaty.

North Korea says it is restarting two nuclear reactors because it needs to generate electricity after the United States cut off fuel shipments to protest the resumption of North Korea's weapons program.