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U.S., South Korea Committed to Nuke-Free Korean Peninsula

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2003 – President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun met at the White House May 14 and reaffirmed they will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.

White House officials said the two leaders expressed serious concern over North Korea's statements about reprocessing nuclear material and possessing nuclear weapons, as well as its threat to demonstrate or transfer these weapons. Bush and Roh stressed that North Korea's moves to escalate will lead only to its greater isolation and a more desperate situation in the North.

Both leaders, officials said, reaffirmed their strong commitment to work for the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program through peaceful means based on international cooperation.

In their first face-to-face meeting since Roh was elected in December 2002, Bush said he assured the South Korean leader that the United States will continue to work to achieve a peaceful solution.

"We're making good progress toward achieving that peaceful resolution of the issue of the Korean peninsula in regards to North Korea," Bush said in a brief media session with Roh at the White House.

Following the meeting, a White House official provided details on the talks. The official said the presidents agreed that U.S. forces should soon move out of the Yongsan garrison, the large U.S. military base in downtown Seoul. They also discussed the need to consolidate bases north of the Han River rather than having them scattered across the country as they have been since the end of the Korean War.

A joint statement issued following the talks calls for focusing U.S. forces around several key hubs. The official said this will make them less intrusive and more militarily capable. They will be more flexible, more mobile, much easier to sustain in terms of logistics and supply, and easier to reinforce.

South Korea intends to enhance its own capabilities as its technology and economy grows stronger, the official added.

Roh noted to reporters that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance. He said he and Bush reached agreements on many national issues, "but more importantly, we have begun to trust each other and have confidence in each other."

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