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Democrats Urge Bush to Engage in Dialogue With North Korea

Democrats in the House of Representatives say the Bush administration should attempt to stay "within the spirit" of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, in any talks with Pyongyang.

The difficult North Korea situation, as well as the possibility of U.S.-led military action against Iraq, were two foreign policy issues discussed at length on Capitol Hill Thursday.

In the morning, House lawmakers received a classified briefing on Iraq by officials from the State Department, Defense Department and CIA.

But North Korea was also prominent in talks among members of the Democratic caucus.

The House Democratic leadership emerged from a discussion on a range of national security issues to brief reporters.

Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, says "defusing" the North Korean situation will require"a reiteration of the spirit behind the Framework" with Pyongyang.

"What the countries in the region want us to do is to engage in dialogue, so we can avoid war, and we have some tools available to us that we should use, and as I say the spirit behind KEDO [Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization] is one of them," he said.

Agreeing with Mrs. Pelosi was Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton. "This is not a time to back away from dialogue and diplomacy," he said.

However, Mr. Skelton, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, had this to say when asked how capable U.S. military forces are in dealing with possible multiple world trouble spots.

"Never doubt that they can do, whether it be one or two contingencies at any one time. There will be strains, yes, on air lift, sea lift and the like. But never, never doubt their capability," he said.

The comments came amid reports that a former House lawmaker, Bill Richardson, is expected to meet North Korea's U.N. ambassador. Now Governor of New Mexico, Mr. Richardson gained a reputation as a diplomatic "troubleshooter" on North Korea, and other world problem spots.

House Democrats, meanwhile, fired off a few more criticisms at Republicans, and at the Bush administration, on national security.

"We still continue to call upon the president, who has yet to deliver one dollar, federal dollar, to states and municipalities across the landscape of this country, for first responders, for police, fire fighters, emergency management, the hospitals," said Robert Menendez, head of the House Democratic caucus.

The White House rejects charges it is not paying enough attention to domestic security concerns. But Democrats are increasingly using the question of preparedness for possible future terror attacks as a political issue.