US sending envoy to Pyongyang

By RICHARD TOMKINS  |  Sept. 25, 2002 at 6:40 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- An American envoy will soon travel to North Korea to re-open discussions about security and other issues, despite continued distrust of the Pyongyang regime, which President George W. Bush has labeled part of the "axis of evil," the White House said on Wednesday.

The name of the envoy and the proposed date of the trip were not disclosed, but spokesman Ari Fleischer said South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was told of the decision by Bush in an early morning telephone call.

"The president told President Kim that the United States would be sending a envoy to the North at a early date," Fleischer said.

"President Kim expressed full support for the president's U.N. speech and his U.N.-led effort to establish the necessary resolutions on Iraq in the U.N. Security Council."

Fleischer added that Bush had congratulated Kim on the Sept. 18 opening of a railway line between North and South Korea and that both agreed that progress in relations with the North still hinged on resolution of security issues.

"Nothing has changed in the president's thinking about President Kim Jong Il and the North Korean leader's starvation of his own people, the militarization efforts that he is leading, the massive number of conventional weapons that he has on the border with South Korea, as well as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Fleischer said.

"But as you know, the president has said that the United States was prepared to meet with North Korea anytime, anyplace."

Fleischer said that the U.S. message would be that "in order for North Korea to feed its people, it would be helpful if they reformed their ways. Their current system is a failure, and it's failed its own people more than anybody else."

North Korea, virtually a hermit from the rest of the world, faces mass hunger and has received international food aid.

The United States has accused it of attempting to develop nuclear weapons and of exporting arms technology.

In his State of the Union address, Bush said it was part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran.

Representatives from the two countries were said to have met earlier this week to discuss resumption of talks that broke off nearly two years ago.

Both South Korea and Japan urged the United States to reopen a dialogue with Pyongyang.

Iraq, another part of the "axis of evil," meanwhile, continued to dominate attention in Washington Wednesday. Congress picked and poked at a draft resolution supporting strong executive action -- including military force -- to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and remove the threat that Saddam Hussein is said to pose to regional and world peace.

A number of legislators believe the draft, drawn up by the White House, is too broad in its wording. They want new language that makes authorization for action specifically state that it applies to Iraq and can't be used elsewhere in the Middle East.

Bush has asked for the resolution, as a sign of a unified America in the standoff with Iraq, before Congress breaks for mid-term elections.

A U.N. resolution compelling Saddam to disarm and adhere to other mandates agreed to after the Gulf War -- and authorizing the use of force to gain compliance if necessary -- was hoped by the White House to come about soon.

France, Russia and China -- all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- have shown opposition to such a resolution, given new promises by Saddam to allow back to Iraq the U.N. weapons inspectors Iraq barred in 1998.

Washington and London argue the promises are just a ruse.

The threat of Iraq and the need to disarm it is a repeated theme for Bush, who uses every opportunity and venue to hammer the theme.

One result is that Democrats are accusing him of using Iraq and the war on terrorism as political issues that Republican candidates in November's balloting can use to retain their hold in the House and possibly regain control of the Senate.

When asked by a reporter before a meeting at the White House with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe if he was politicizing the issue by speaking about it, even at fundraisers for Republican candidates, Bush replied:

"A legitimate national security concern is what it is. You may try to politicize it. I view it as my main obligation; that is to protect the American people.

"... My job is to protect the American people. It's my most important job -- most important I have. And I will continue to do that, regardless of the season."

Bush also had the opportunity, in replying to a question, to put the threat of Iraq and the threat posed by al Qaida, the organization responsible for the terror attacks on New York and Washington, in perspective.

"They're both risks," Bush said. "They're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments; Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides; Saddam doesn't.

"But the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror -- you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam."

In his talks with the Colombian president, Bush promised continued U.S. aid in helping fight narco-terrorism and drug trafficking, boosting Colombia's economy and increasing trade.

Later in the day, he met with legislators to urge a resolution of differences over energy legislation, so that a measure could reach his desk before adjournment for signing into law.

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