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'Our patience is not unlimited', President Bush on North Korea, April 27, 2007

President Bush and Prime Minister Abe of Japan Participate in a Joint Press Availability, Camp David, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, April 27, 2007.


We talked about the fact that our alliance -- and it is a global alliance -- is rooted in common values, especially our commitment to freedom and democracy. We discussed ways we can continue to partner together. There's no more important partnership than that through the six-party talks. We spent a lot of time talking about North Korea and our mutual desire for North Korea to meet its obligations. Our partners in the six-party talks are patient, but our patience is not unlimited. We expect North Korea to meet all its commitments under the February 13th agreement, and we will continue working closely with our partners.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: (As translated.) ...

We did take a lot of time to discuss North Korean nuclear issues. We agreed to work together to realize a more peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula by making North Korea completely give up its nuclear weapons and programs through the six-party talks.

With regard to the abduction issue, President Bush once again expresses unvarying commitment to support the government of Japan saying that to this day the strong impressions he got when he met Mrs. Yokota, around this time last year, still remains. I told the President that before my departure this time, Mrs. Yokota had told me ever since she last heard from her daughter, Megumi, that the most moving moment was her meeting with the President. So the President expressed his, as I said, unvarying commitment to support of the government of Japan on this abduction issue.

We agree that the current state of the six-party talks, as well as North Korea's attitude towards the abduction issue are regrettable. And we'll work for closer coordination between our two countries to achieve progress...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Two questions a side. Deb, would you start off, please?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Some people are concerned that you're going soft on North Korea. You said you had --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Said -- what did you just say? There's an echo in here.

Q Some people say you're going soft on North Korea. You said you had unlimited patience with the regime. They've missed their deadline on shutting down their nuclear reactor --

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I said our patience is not unlimited.

Q Not unlimited. My question, sir, is how long are you willing to wait to have them shut this down? Are we talking days, weeks, months? And --

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I appreciate that very much. Do you want to ask the Prime Minister something, too? It's an old U.S. trick here. Keep plowing through it. (Laughter.)

Q Are you worried that America is softening its stance on Kim Jong-il?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I have always believed that the best way to solve these difficult problems is through diplomacy. That's the first choice of the United States, to solve difficult problems diplomatically. I also believe that the best way -- and the difficult problem, of course, was to convincing the leader of North Korea to give up his nuclear weapons program.

I also felt the best way forward was not for the United States to carry this diplomatic mission alone, and therefore worked very hard and closely with our Japanese allies to convince others to come to the table beside the United States. And now we have what we call the six-party talks, which is the United States, Japan, and China, and South Korea and Russia, all saying the same message to North Korea, that we expect you to honor agreements you made, which include not only stopping -- locking down their plant, but also dismantling their programs, and all programs -- giving up weapons programs and weapons. That's what they've said they would do.

We recently had a bump in the road to getting them to honor their agreement, and that is, there is a financial arrangement that we're now trying to clarify for the North Koreans, so that that will enable them to have no excuse for moving forward. And that's where we are right now.

The interesting thing about our position is that if it looks like the North Korean leader is not going to honor his agreement, if it looks like that there are reasons other than the financial arrangements that will cause him to say, well, I really don't mean what I said, we now have a structure in place to continue to provide a strong message to the North Korean. We have the capability of more sanctions. We have the capability of convincing other nations to send a clear message.

So I like our position in terms of achieving this mission in a diplomatic way. And I want to thank the Prime Minister for being a strong advocate of sending a clear message to the North Korean leader that there's a better way forward than to defy the world.

On all issues, there is a --- whether it's this issue or any other issue, is that we will work with our partners to determine how long. But as I said, our patience is not unlimited. And that's the operative word for the leader in North Korea to understand. We hope he moves forward soon, obviously. Just like in -- somebody asked me the other day, how long in Darfur? Well, the leaders will find out the definition of how long when we make it clear we're moving in a different direction. There's still time for the North Korean leader to make the right choice.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Today this issue had very candid exchange of views. Our understanding of the issue and the direction we are pursuing, we completely see eye to eye on this matter, and we've had completely the same attitude. We'll continue to deal with the North Korean issue.

We have to make the North Koreans understand that unless they keep up their promise, the difficult conditions they find themselves under -- the food situation and economic situation -- they'll not be able to resolve those difficulties. And in fact, the situation would only worsen. So they need to respond appropriately on these issues, otherwise we will have to take a tougher response on our side.

In agreement with the procedures set down by the six-party talks, we'll have to continue to watch whether the North Koreans will actually act. In our negotiations with North Koreans, we now have learned full well their negotiating ploys. And between Japan and the United States, we'll maintain close coordination for the resolution of this issue.

Q Once again, allow me to ask questions related to North Korea. In Japan, the interpretation is that the United States have become softer on the BDA, Banco Delta Asia issue, and some people are concerned. Now Mr. Abe, in your meeting today, did you ask President Bush to step up the American pressures on North Korea?

And a question for Mr. President. I understand the United States has agreed with North Korea to start negotiations on lifting the terrorist state designation. Is it right to consider that a precondition for lifting would be the abduction issue resolution?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: To resolve the North Korean issue, of course, dialogue is needed. But in resolving those issues, and in negotiating with North Koreans, there is a need for pressure. And on that score, George and I fully agree. We reaffirmed that point today. Should the North Koreans fail to keep their promise, we will step up our pressures on North Korea. And on that point, again, I believe we see eye to eye.

As for the importance of the abduction issue, George and our American friends, I'm sure, are fully aware, and they understand our thinking and they support our position. In resolving that abduction issue, as well, Japan and the United States will cooperate with each other, when we need to cooperate with each other. And the President thinks the same way.

PRESIDENT BUSH: We have shown the North Korean leader that obstinance on this issue, that there's a price to pay. We have come together as a group of nations, all aiming to achieve the same objective, and that is for the leader to North Korea to verifiably give up the weapons program that he has, just like he said he would do. And we have proven that we can work in collaboration to deny certain benefits to the North Korean government and people. That's what we've shown so far.

I think it's wise to show the North Korean leader, as well, that there is a better way forward. I wouldn't call that "soft," I'd call that wise diplomacy. It's his choice to make, ultimately, not our choice, as to whether he honors the agreement he agreed to. Our objective is to hold him to account. But he's got different ways forward and we have made that avenue available for his choice. So the meeting today, of course, is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. We're hoping that the North Korea leader continues to make the right choice for his country. But if he should choose not to, we've got a strategy to make sure that the pressure we've initially applied is even greater. That's our plan.

And so it is -- he ought to know that if he makes right choices, there is a way for him to be able to deal with a listing that our government has placed on him; in other words, there's a way forward. And this is -- what you're referring to is the beginning of a process, it's the beginning of an opportunity for him to be in a different position, vis- -vis the United States government on a variety of fronts.

Any discussion about ways forward, however, shouldn't -- should not obscure my strong sentiment about the abductee issue. The Prime Minister mentioned how Mrs. Yokota was affected by her visit to the Oval Office -- well, I was affected by her visit to the Oval Office. It broke my heart to be in the presence of a Japanese mother whose love for her daughter has not diminished over time and her grief is sincere and real. I remember her bringing the picture of the child as she remembers her, right there where I go to work every day, and sitting it on the couch next to her.

So I'm deeply affected by her. She needs to understand that her visit added a human dimension to an issue which is obviously very important to the Japanese people. And I will never forget her visit and I will work with my friend and the Japanese government to get this issue resolved in a way that touches the human heart, in a way that -- it's got more than just a, kind of a diplomatic ring to it, as far as I'm concerned. It's a human issue now to me; it's a tangible, emotional issue. And thank you for bringing the question up...

Source: The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov.

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.