Iran General NewsBush: Force not ruled out on North Korea or...

Bush: Force not ruled out on North Korea or Iran


ImageAFP: US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that "military options remain on the table" in nuclear disputes with North Korea and Iran but underlined that he preferred a diplomatic resolution.

ImageWASHINGTON (AFP) — US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that "military options remain on the table" in nuclear disputes with North Korea and Iran but underlined that he preferred a diplomatic resolution.

"I have always said that diplomacy has got to be the first choice of solving any of these problems. But military options remain on the table," Bush said in a roundtable interview with Japanese news outlets.

The president had been asked whether the six-country-talks approach he embraced for dealing with North Korea could be effective with Iran and about charges he ignored diplomacy when it came to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Bush has frequently warned that he has not ruled out using force against Iran, but has done so less frequently amid six-country diplomatic efforts aimed at defusing the nuclear dispute with North Korea.

White House aides and Bush himself have said that it would be irresponsible for a US president to categorically rule out using force, saying that could de-fang diplomatic efforts with difficult countries.

Bush said North Korea's decision to provide an unprecedented accounting of its nuclear programs last week may have stemmed from leader Kim Jong-Il's decision to end his country's deep political and economic isolation.

"Expectations are that he will move forward, action for action," as part of a tit-for-tat diplomatic arrangement promising the secretive Stalinist country rewards for doing so, Bush told the roundtable.

"We expect there to be full declaration of manufactured plutonium. We expect there to be a full disclosure of any enrichment activities and proliferation activities. And we expect the abductee issue to be solved.

"And if they choose not to move forward on an agreed-upon way forward — action for action — there will be further isolation and further deprivation for the people of North Korea," he said.

But "I would only surmise that perhaps the leader of North Korea is tired of being isolated in the world, and would try to advance his country in a way that makes it easier for the people to have a better life," he said.

Bush also sought to ease Japanese anger at his decision to take North Korea off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, effective in 45 days, in response to North Korea's nuclear accounting.

Some Japanese accused him of forgetting about the fate of Japanese abducted by North Korea, which in June agreed to reopen the issue of the purloined people after initially saying the case was closed.

"I can understand people saying, 'well, I guess this is the beginning of the end of US concern,'" he said. "But I will say it again, like I have said it time and time again, this is the beginning of our concern."

The six-party talks are "a framework to help solve the concerns of the parents, the people of Japan and the Japanese government," said Bush, who has met in his Oval Office with the mother of one of the abductees.

"The question is, can Japan solve this issue alone better, or does it make sense to have the United States and other countries expressing the same concerns? I happen to believe that it is in your country's interest to have the United States and other countries helping you on this issue," he said.

"My hope is, is that the North Koreans continue to move forward," said Bush.

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