President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun declared they would not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, and affirmed they would push diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear dispute with Pyongyang. The two leaders are have gathered with other heads of government from the Asia and pacific regions at the APEC Summit in Busan, South Korea.
President Bush stood firm Thursday in his insistence that North Korea must first end its nuclear weapons programs before it receives assistance from the United States.
Pyongyang says it will not end its weapons efforts until the United States gives it a nuclear reactor for energy production.
At a joint news conference after his meeting Thursday with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Mr. Bush said that issue will only be discussed "at an appropriate time."
"And the appropriate time is after they have verifiably given up their nuclear weapons and or programs," he said.
President Roh said he and President Bush are in agreement that a nuclear-armed North Korea cannot be tolerated. Mr. Roh reaffirms the two leaders' commitment to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully and diplomatically.
The United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia have been negotiating with Pyongyang for two years on ending its nuclear ambitions. So far, they have made limited progress in persuading North Korea to comply with past international accords to keep the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
Neither president mentioned the differences they have in dealing with Pyongyang. President Roh, concerned about a possible collapse of the impoverished North and a flood of refugees, has sought to engage Pyongyang. His government is one of the biggest aid donors to the Stalinist state.
President Bush, however, has taken a tougher stance, particularly because of fears Pyongyang could sell nuclear or missile technology to other countries or to terrorist groups. The United States has sought to crack down on the suspected illegal activities of Pyongyang, which include drug smuggling and counterfeiting, and to stem its arms trading.
South Korea also sidesteps international complaints about human rights abuses in North Korea, while the United States increasingly is focusing on those reports.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh agreed Thursday that talks should be held with Pyongyang aimed at signing a permanent peace treaty for the Korean peninsula. Fighting in the three-year Korean War was halted in 1953 by a temporary armistice, which remains in effect.
The presidents described their countries' relationship as strong, despite what President Bush acknowledged are occasional "complexities." South Korea has also taken steps toward more autonomy from its military alliance with the United States, leading some U.S. politicians to question the alliance's future.
There is also growing anti-American sentiment among South Koreans, and increasing resentment over the presence of 32,000 U.S. troops in the country.
The meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh took place in Gyeongju. That historical capital of Korea is about 80 kilometers from Busan, where on Friday and Saturday they will take part in the annual summit of the leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group.
Mr. Bush's presence in South Korea has drawn several hundred protesters, who oppose his policies on North Korea, the U.S. troop presence, and also APEC's push for greater trade liberalization. Thus far, however, the protests have been peaceful.