George W. Bush photo

Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat of Thailand and an Exchange With Reporters in Bangkok, Thailand

October 19, 2003

President Bush. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for your grand hospitality. Our entire delegation is honored that you have worked so hard to make our stay comfortable and meaningful.

We just had a very good bilateral with our very close friend. I want to thank the Prime Minister for his strong support in the war on terror and remind our fellow citizens that because of his Government and his good work, Mr. Hambali, one of the masterminds of the Bali bombing, has been brought to justice. Mr. Prime Minister, the world is safer because of that. And I want to thank you, and I want to thank you for your support in Iraq.

I told the Prime Minister that this country is willing to grant major non-NATO ally status to Thailand, which is a very important recognition of your friendship and your strong support. As well we discussed the fact that we want to move forward the free trade agreement. We have the intention to begin negotiations on our free trade agreement, which is a very important step in our bilateral relations. And I want to thank you for that.

We also talked about a wide range of issues, including Burma and our deep desire for freedom to take place in Burma. We care deeply about Aung San Suu Kyi and the status of Aung San Suu Kyi, and we would like to see her free. I appreciate the sympathetic hearing I got from the Prime Minister. We share the same goal; the Government assured us of that, and I thank him for that.

All in all, it was very constructive visit, perhaps made more constructive by the fact that the Prime Minister went to university at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas—[laughter]—and therefore, we speak the same language. [Laughter]

Thank you, sir, for your hospitality.

I thought I'd take a couple of questions.

North Korea

Q. Mr. President, would you be willing to offer North Korea some kind of non-invasion or non-aggression agreement or pact, maybe something short of a treaty, if it would get out of the nuclear weapons business?

President Bush. Well, that's exactly what I'm going to talk to the leader of China about here in a couple of hours, how to move the process forward. I've said as plainly as I can say that we have no intention of invading North Korea. And I've also said as plainly as I can say that we expect North Korea to get rid of her nuclear weapons ambitions. And the progress we're making on this issue is that we've convinced other nations to say the same thing, including China and Japan and South Korea and Russia—and Thailand. The Foreign Minister recently has had a trip there, and briefed us on his discussions with the North Korean Government.

We would like to see the Korean Peninsula without any nuclear weapons. And we will also be willing to discuss with the Chinese and our other partners how to move the process forward. That's precisely what I'm going to do.

Holland [Steve Holland, Reuters].

Usama bin Laden Tape/War on Terror

Q. Sir, bin Laden is threatening new attacks. How serious a threat is this, and will this discourage other countries from stepping forward in Iraq?

President Bush. I think that the bin Laden tape should say to everybody the war on terror goes on, that there's still a danger for free nations and that free nations need to work together more than ever to share intelligence, cut off money, and bring these potential killers or killers to justice. And we've got to find them. And that's one of the discussion points that the Prime Minister and I just had. It's something I'll discuss with other leaders here at APEC. This is still a dangerous world, and that tape just points out exactly what I meant.


North Korea

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Which one?

President Bush. Neither. [Laughter] Both. [Laughter] The prettier one first. [Laughter]

Q. I'll let you go——

Q. I won't go there, Mr. President. If I could just follow up on your answer on North Korea. You've often said in recent days that you had made the decision on Iraq because you could not leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman——

President Bush. Yes.

Q. You are now in a position where the CIA says, has long said that North Korea has maybe two weapons. There are some arguments they may now have four or six, while this slow diplomacy has gone on. Would you say that Kim Chong-il now poses as urgent and immediate a threat today as Saddam Hussein did a year ago?

President Bush. I would say that the situation is different between North Korea and Iraq, and that it's this, David, that we tried diplomacy for 12 long years in Iraq, and many Security Council resolutions for Iraq, and the world spoke clearly about Iraq. And Saddam Hussein ignored the world. And therefore, we put a coalition together to deal with Saddam Hussein.

We're making progress on the diplomatic front. I'd like to resolve all issues in a peaceful way, without using our military, and I think we have an opportunity to do so——

Q. Even if they're still building weapons while you do it?

President Bush. Well, we'll find out if they are or not. We—the key thing we're going to do is now, for the first time, have started to speak with not one voice but five voices to convince Mr. Kim Chong-il that he ought to change his way.

And today is—we're furthering the process with my discussions with Mr. Hu Jintao on this very subject. China is now very much engaged in the process. And as you very well know as a student of this issue, that hasn't been the case up until recently. As a matter of fact, the bilateral approach to dealing with North Korea didn't work. We signed an agreement with North Korea prior to our arrival in Washington, DC, and the North Koreans cheated. And so we're trying another approach. And I'm hopeful this will work, and we're making good progress on this approach.


Q. Sir, can I just follow on one aspect of that, which is you're making very clear again today that you have no intention of invading North Korea, and you want them to know that. But in your mind, is there a distinction between saying that publicly and putting that down on paper in a non-aggression pact? Is that something you are unwilling to do?

President Bush. I'm going to look at all options. But you know, first of all, it is very important for us to work with our partners on this issue. That's the difference. And the difference is that we've now got four other voices besides ourselves who say the same message to Mr. Kim Chong-il, and that is, "Disarm." And we want to explore these options with our—with China and Japan, South Korea, and Russia. And that's what I intend to do.

Q. [Inaudible]—that's an important idea, you may——

President Bush. First of all, what's important is that the burden is on North Korea, not on America. North Korea must get rid of her nuclear ambitions. She must get rid of her weapons program. That's exactly the point we're trying to make—in a verifiable way, I might add. And we are—we think there's an opportunity to move the process forward, and we're going to discuss it with our partners.

We will not have a treaty, if that's what you're asking. That's off the table. Perhaps there are other ways we can look at—to say exactly what I said publicly on paper, with our partners' consent.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:21 a.m. at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. In his remarks, he referred to Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin (known as Hambali), Al Qaida's chief operational planner in Southeast Asia; Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy of Burma; President Hu Jintao of China; Minister of Foreign Affairs Surakiat Sathianthai of Thailand; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and Chairman Kim Chong-il of North Korea. The President also referred to reporters David Gregory, NBC News, and David Sanger, New York Times. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat of Thailand and an Exchange With Reporters in Bangkok, Thailand Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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