Bush urges North Korea to keep nuclear pledges

August 6th, 2008 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, Aug 6 (DPA) US President George W. Bush Wednesday said that despite North Korea having made progress in dismantling its nuclear programme, it still must meet many more obligations in order for it to be no longer regarded as a rogue state. Addressing a joint press conference in Seoul with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, Bush said Pyongyang had “a lot to do” before the US fulfilled one of its top demands in nuclear talks, to be taken off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

One of those tasks was establishing a rigorous process to verify that it was fulfilling its nuclear commitments, the US president said, adding that he was concerned about North Korea’s uranium- enrichment activities, its nuclear testing and proliferation, and its ballistic missile programmes.

“The best way to approach and answer those concerns is for there to be strong verification measures,” added Bush, who had named North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” in 2002 for its weapons proliferation before agreeing to negotiate with it.

North Korea has been offered economic and humanitarian aid if it dismantles its nuclear programme in its negotiations with the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, which have been going on since 2003.

“My hope is that the ‘axis of evil’ list no longer exists,” said Bush. “That’s my hope, for the sake of peace.”

However, he added, the people of North Korea still lived under an oppressive regime. “The human rights abuses inside the country still persist,” he said.

Bush, who leaves office in January, arrived in South Korea Tuesday on the first stop of a week-long, three-nation Asia trip.

In Bush’s third meeting with Lee, the two conservative presidents also said a free trade agreement their two countries signed would boost trade, increase economic growth and create jobs in both the United States and South Korea.

They urged their legislatures to approve the pact this year.

Bush’s arrival was greeted with protests as well as pro-US demonstrations in Seoul.

The protests mainly hinged around a controversial decision to lift an import ban on US beef.

More than 160 people were arrested following scuffles with police, according to Korean media reports.

After meeting with US soldiers, he was to leave South Korea for Thailand Wednesday.

He then is to go to Beijing, where his stay includes taking part in Friday’s opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games.

While in Seoul, Bush again called for greater religious and political freedom in China, but defended his decision to take part in Friday’s ceremony.

There were two reasons he was travelling to Beijing, Bush said.

“Firstly, to pay my respects to the Chinese, and secondly, to cheer for the US team.”

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