Bush, Robertson Talk NATO Summit, Expansion, Transformation
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2002 President Bush and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson met today to discuss next month's NATO summit, which Robertson said will be the most important in the alliance's history.
"NATO is an incredibly important part of U.S. foreign policy," Bush said following their meeting in the Oval Office. "I appreciate the alliance." Bush said he and Robertson talked about NATO expansion and a brief the secretary-general will receive in a few weeks on U.S. views.
Robertson said Bush has shown "his and his administration's commitment to NATO and to the strength of this trans-Atlantic alliance that has bound together these democratic and freedom-loving states over all of the years."
The NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic, "will be a transformation summit where the alliance must transform itself to deal with the threats and the challenges of the 21st century," Robertson said. It will include new members, "a robust enlargement," new capabilities to deal with terrorism and other "challenges and nightmares that we may face ahead in the future."
NATO allies will also discuss new relationships with Russian, Ukraine and Partnership for Peace countries, he added, "building the world's largest permanent alliance and one which the world can rely on."
Turning from NATO to the current threats from weapons of mass destruction, Bush responded to reporters' queries about North Korea and Iraq. The news that the North Koreans were enriching uranium with the idea of developing a nuclear weapon was "a troubling discovery, because we felt like they had given their word they weren't going to do this," he said.
"I view this as an opportunity to work with our friends in the region and work with other countries in the region to ally against the proliferation of serious weapons and to convince Kim Jong-il that he must disarm," Bush said. The people who have the most at stake, he noted, are North Korea's neighbors.
Bush said he plans to talk with President Jiang Zemin of China about how the United States and China can work together to deal with the true threats of the 21st century. He also plans to make this an important topic during his discussions in Mexico with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Russia.
"This is a chance for people who love freedom and peace to work together to deal with an emerging threat," Bush said. "So this is an opportunity to work together. I'm going to seize it."
The threat from North Korea is different from the threat from Iraq, the president said,
"Saddam Hussein is unique in this sense," Bush said. "He has thumbed his nose at the world for 11 years. The United Nations has passed 16 resolutions to deal with this man, and for 11 years he said, 'No, I refuse to disarm.'"
The fact that Saddam has actually gassed his own people makes him even more unique, Bush added. The Iraqi leader has used weapons of mass destruction on neighboring countries and on his own citizenry. Now, Saddam wants a nuclear weapon and he's made it clear he hates the United States and its friends.
"We've tried diplomacy," Bush said. "We're trying it one more time. I believe if the Free World, if we make up our mind to, can disarm this man peacefully."
The United States seeks a regime change in Iraq, he noted, "because we don't believe he (Saddam) is going to change. However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I've described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed."