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Bush Remarks on N. Korea Draw Reaction from Congressional Members - 2003-01-29

President Bush's State of the Union remarks about North Korea are drawing reaction from members of Congress.

In his address, President Bush said an oppressive regime in North Korea "is ruling a people living in fear and starvation." Mr. Bush said that regime is always deceiving the world about its nuclear weapons program.

"Today, the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions," the president said. "America and the world will not be blackmailed."

The president says the United States is working with allies South Korea and Japan, as well as with Russia and China, to convince Pyongyang that "nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation and continued hardship."

The president offered a pathway to international respectability.

"The North Korean regime will find respect in the world, and revival for its people, only when it turns away from its nuclear ambitions," he said.

Among Democrats reacting to the president's remarks, Senator Ted Kennedy said the United States needs to concentrate, not only on Iraq, but on the real danger of North Korean proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Republican Senator John McCain expressed disappointment in Mr. Bush's remarks on North Korea and repeated his view that the United States should immediately call for economic sanctions against Pyongyang.

Monday, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle questioned why the Bush administration is focusing more on Iraq than North Korea.

"North Korea has long-range missile capacity. Iraq does not. North Korea is believed to have nuclear weapons. Iraq does not," he said. "In this current round of tension, North Korea has shut down the international inspection process. Iraq has not. Both present threats. But we believe only North Korea presents an immediate nuclear threat."

President Bush's limited but strong comments on North Korea, came as a South Korean envoy returned to Seoul after an unsuccessful attempt to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. The delegation did meet other North Korean officials. South Korean officials are quoted as saying the talks were somewhat-successful in conveying Seoul's position.