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Peace treaty offered in nuclear arms trade-off

Bush says Washington ready if North keeps its word  PLAY AUDIO

Sept 08,2007
SYDNEY ― If North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, Washington is willing to offer a formal peace treaty to Pyongyang, U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday after a meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun held on the sidelines of a regional forum.
The comment comes after several weeks of apparent progress in ending the longstanding deadlock over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and distanced Bush even farther from his earlier stance that Pyongyang was part of a terrorist “axis of evil.”
“We’re looking forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen when Kim Jong-il verifiably dismantles his weapons program,” Bush told reporters while attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney.
Roh then asked Bush to “be a little clearer,” prompting a slightly testy exchange with the American leader.
Bush said he was as clear as he could be and that he was referring to a formal peace agreement to replace the armistice that has been in place since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Saying he was “optimistic” on efforts to dismantle the North’s nuclear programs, Bush asked Roh to use the upcoming inter-Korean summit to urge the North’s leader Kim Jong-il “to adhere to the agreement that he made with us.”
Bush first aired the idea of a peace agreement in November last year. Apart from ending Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, nations involved in the six-party nuclear talks are also looking to establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean {Peninsula, a security mechanism that could defuse tensions in the region.
“We confirmed that we would move quickly to the next phase once the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved,” said Roh.
Both Koreas are still technically at war as the Korean War was concluded with a cease fire in 1953. The two nations are separated by the world’s most heavily fortified border.
Since then, the United States has maintained a sizeable armed presence on the Korean Peninsula.
In September 2005 Pyongyang committed itself to giving up its nuclear programs in exchange for economic aid and multilateral security assurances. In February of this year, the North took another step towards that commitment by reaching a deal that outlines the details of dismantling its nuclear programs.
Further details will be discussed at the six-party talks, which are likely to resume this month.
Reuters contributed to this story.


By Park Sung-hee JoongAng Ilbo/ Brian Lee Staff Writer [africanu@joongang.co.kr]


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