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Bush Seeking Support Against North Korea’s Nuclear Projects

By Mike Allen

President Bush vowed Monday to enlist other world powers in convincing North Korea to scrap its nuclear-weapons project but indicated he has no plans to use force, as he might with Iraq.

“This is a chance for people who love freedom and peace to work together to deal with an emerging threat,” he said. “I believe we can deal with this threat peacefully, particularly if we work together.”

Bush, using a more restrained tone than he does when lambasting Iraq, was addressing North Korea’s confession about a nuclear program for the first time since administration officials reported it to Washington 16 days earlier. He said he would use meetings over the next week with leaders of China, Japan, Russia and South Korea to discuss how to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Il “that he must disarm.”

“We had a bit of troubling news when we discovered the fact that, contrary to what we had been led to believe, that they were enriching uranium, the idea of developing a nuclear weapon,” Bush said. “We felt like they had given their word they weren’t going to do this.”

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer responded coldly to an offer from North Korea for talks about its nuclear programs, saying that consultations with allies would come first. “International pressure will come to bear on North Korea to make them realize the dangers that they are pursuing, in terms of the future for them will be increasingly isolated if they go down the road that they have indicated they’re going done,” he said.

Bush is to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Friday at his ranch in Crawford, Tex. Bush said North Korea will be central to a discussion of how the United States and China can work together to deal with “the true threats of the 21st century.” He said North Korea will be discussed in meetings with other world powers during his two-day trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Mexico.

“The people who have got the most at stake, of course, in this posture are the people who are his neighbors,” Bush said.