Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea and an Exchange With Reporters
President Bush. Everybody in? It's been my honor to welcome President Kim here to the Oval Office. We had a very good discussion. We confirmed the close relationship between our two countries. We talked about a lot of subjects, and we'll be glad to answer questions on some of those subjects. But first let me say how much I appreciate this man's leadership in terms of reaching out to the North Koreans.
He is leading; he is a leader. He is— and we've had a very frank discussion about his vision for peace on the Peninsula. It's a goal we share. After all, we've got vested interests there, and we had a very good discussion. I made it clear to the President, we look forward to working toward peace on the Peninsula, that we'll consult closely, that we'll stay in touch, that I do have some skepticism about the leader of North Korea, but that's not going to preclude us from trying to achieve the common objectives.
So, Mr. President, welcome. Thank you for being here.
President Kim. First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to President Bush for inviting me to visit Washington and have this meeting with him, despite his very busy schedule, I'm sure, in these early weeks after inauguration.
I'm delighted to have had this opportunity to start building friendship and close cooperative working relationship with President Bush on a variety of issues. I thank the President for sharing his insight and wisdom with me concerning the situation in northeast Asia and the world, in general. And while discussing things with him, I could feel that I was sitting next to a leader who would take the world to greater peace and prosperity in the 21st century.
President Bush and I covered the whole variety of issues in ROK-U.S. relations. It has been a most useful exchange of views. We have agreed to work together towards the further strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance, and our close policy coordination in dealing with North Korea towards the goal of ending the cold war and strengthening peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
And taking this opportunity, I would like to invite you, Mr. President, to come and visit us in Seoul as early as you can, so that we will have another opportunity to further strengthen the close cooperative working relationship between our two allies.
President Bush. Thank you, sir.
I'm going to take a couple of questions from the American press. I would hope that the South Korean press would be willing—we'll alternate.
Fournier [Ron Fournier, Associated Press].
Q. Mr. President, the Secretary of State just told us that you made it clear you would not be fooled by the North Korean regime. Can you expand on that? And are you afraid that the South Koreans, in their haste, their energy to make peace, might be not forcing North Korea to make certain concessions that need to be made?
President Bush. First, we had a very frank discussion about North Korea. There's no question in my mind that the President of the Republic of Korea is a realist. He knows exactly with whom we're dealing. He's under no illusions. I also told the President that we look forward to, at some point in the future, having a dialog with the North Koreans, but that any negotiation would require complete verification of the terms of a potential agreement.
And so I look forward to strengthening our relationship, first and foremost. And we will have a constant dialog as to the progress that is being made on the Peninsula, and our foreign policy will respond in a way that will reinforce the efforts of the President but at the same time—and at the same time, make it clear to all parties concerned that any agreement must make the Peninsula more peaceful, and we must be able to verify that it is more peaceful.
I am concerned about the fact that the North Koreans are shipping weapons around the world. And any agreement that would convince them not to do so would be beneficial, but we want to make sure that their ability to develop and spread weapons of mass destruction was, in fact, stopped—they're willing to stop it—and that we can verify that, in fact, they had stopped it.
But Ron, there's no question that this President takes a realistic view of the man with whom we're dealing.
Q. Mr. President, do you believe that North Korea is living up to its other agreements with the United States, Japan, South Korea?
President Bush. South Korean press. I'll get you in a minute, Jim [Jim Angle, Fox News].
U.S. Presidential Transition/Korean Peninsula
Q. A question to President Kim of South Korea. Mr. President, you say that you've had sufficient, fruitful exchange of views with President Bush. This is a transitional period in which you have to deal with a new administration, a change from the Clinton administration now to the Bush administration. You say that you do not expect any major changes in the work that you do together. But President Bush has greatly emphasized the pragmatic and realistic approaches in dealing with North Korea. In that regard, do you detect any change, and what do you think is the greatest outcome of this summit meeting today?
President Kim. The greatest outcome today has to be that through a frank and honest exchange of views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, we have increased the mutual understanding.
On North Korea, yes, there are many problems that remain, but President Bush has clearly expressed his strong support for our efforts to further the dialog with North Korea. On my part, I have assured him that as we try to advance the dialog with North Korea, we will consult with the United States every step of the way, so that the progress in South-North Korean relations serves the interest of our two countries and that it serves to strengthen peace on the Korean Peninsula.
President Bush was very frank and honest in sharing with me his perceptions about the nature of North Korea and the North Korean leader, and this is very important for me to take back home and to consider.
President Bush. Jim.
Q. Yes, sir. Sorry to go out of order, sir.
President Bush. Do you remember the question?
North Korea/National Missile Defense
Q. I believe I do, sir. There are some other agreements that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are party to with North Korea. Do you believe that they are living up to the agreements they have made?
And if I could, sir, a question for President Kim, as well. You had said last week with Mr. Putin that the 1972 ABM Treaty was the foundation of stability in the world. Do you still believe that, and were you quoted accurately, sir?
President Kim. On the controversy surrounding that inclusion of that reference to the ABM in the South Korea-Russia joint statement recently, our foreign ministry negotiated that statement with the Russians, and that phrase—in coming up with that phrase we've taken into consideration the documents that came out of the G-8 Okinawa Summit and various other international consultations that the United States was part of.
This in no way reflects our position on the NMD issues. This is not an indication of our opposition to the NMD. The Russian side, in fact, initially very strongly wished to include such a phrase that would indicate an opposition, and we resisted to the very end.
And so when we saw this controversy unexpectedly arising after the joint statement came out, I regretted the misunderstanding. And so I ordered my foreign ministry to come out with an immediate clarification of our position.
President Bush. Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea, there's not very much transparency. We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements. And that's part of the issue that the President and I discussed, is when you make an agreement with a country that is secretive, how do you—how are you aware as to whether or not they're keeping the terms of the agreement?
The President was very forthright in describing his vision, and I was forthright in describing my support for his vision, as well as my skepticism about whether or not we can verify an agreement in a country that doesn't enjoy the freedoms that our two countries understand—don't have the free press like we have here in America.
North Korea-U.S. Negotiations
Q. President Kim, do you believe that it would strengthen South Korea's security for the United States to immediately resume the negotiations that President Clinton's administration had taken with North Korea regarding its missile program? And if so, did you make that case to President Bush today?
President Kim. First of all, we sincerely hope that the North Korean missile issue will be resolved with transparency. But of course, the United States is the counterpart dealing with North Korea in the negotiations over the missile issue. We have not made any suggestion whether the negotiations should be resumed now, or whatever. This is an issue for the United States to make.
President Bush. Let's make sure we get the members of the South Korean press— get to ask some questions, too. I'm not saying you're being overly aggressive or anything. Any further questions? Did you get to ask all the questions?
Q. Mr. President, one more. Was there any discussion concerning the agreed framework, the Geneva agreed framework, at the summit today?
President Bush. Anybody else?
South Korean Sunshine Policy
Q. Mr. President, what is your general view about President Kim's Sunshine Policy? Do you think that that contributes to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula?
President Bush. Yes, I do. I do. I think that the idea of trade, flows of capital, will lead to a more peaceful Peninsula. I think open dialog, I think reunification of families will lead to a more peaceful Peninsula. Hopefully, the efforts that the President makes will convince the North Koreans that we are peaceful people and that they need not be fearful about the intentions of America and of the Republic of Korea, that we want the peace. But we must be wise and strong and consistent about making sure that peace happens.
But I believe the President is on a policy that has got peace as its goal and peace as its intentions, and with the right alliance and the right formulation of policy, hopefully, it will achieve the peace that we all want.
Thank you all for coming.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:03 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to General Secretary Kim Chong-il of North Korea. A reporter referred to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
George W. Bush, Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/214670