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Remarks Prior to the Swearing-In Ceremony for John Snow as Secretary of the Treasury and an Exchange With Reporters

February 07, 2003

The President. I'm looking forward to the official swearing-in of this good man. I appreciate you joining us, joining our Cabinet.

Iraqi Regime Compliance With U.N. Resolutions

Q. Sir, can you tell us what you plan to do to win over France, Germany, China, Russia, other allies that are still skeptical about your need to confront Saddam?

The President. The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution, called 1441, that said Saddam Hussein must completely disarm. Saddam Hussein has not disarmed. Colin Powell made that case very clear, and now the members of the Security Council can decide whether or not that resolution will have any force, whether it means anything.

This is a defining moment for the U.N. Security Council. If the Security Council were to allow a dictator to lie and deceive, the Security Council would be weakened. I'm confident that when the members assess their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the U.N., that they will understand that 1441 must be upheld in the fullest.

Q. They don't seem to be buying that argument quite yet.

North Korea

Q. Mr. President, some in Congress say you're not paying enough attention to North Korea, due to the Iraq showdown. Are you concerned that North Korea could carry out the preemptive strikes it has threatening? And are you willing to use military force if you can't resolve the crisis diplomatically?

The President. All options are on the table, but I believe we can solve this diplomatically. I spoke to Jiang Zemin today about this very subject, and I will continue working diplomatically to convince Kim Chong-il that he will be further isolated if he continues to develop a nuclear program.

I talked to the President of China, reminded him that we have a joint responsibility to uphold the goal that we talked about in Crawford—that goal being a nuclear-weapons-free Peninsula—that we have responsibilities, joint responsibilities, that Russia has a responsibility. I explained that to President Putin the other day when I spoke to him.

We will continue—when I spoke to Prime Minister Koizumi recently, I talked about the North Korean issue. And we will continue to work diplomatically to make it very clear to Kim Chong-il that should he expect any kind of aid and help for his people, that he must comply with the world's demand that he not develop a nuclear weapon.

Q. And the threat of preemptive strike, sir?

The President. No, all options are on the table, of course. But as I said many times, and I still believe this, this will be solved diplomatically. And we will continue to work diplomatically. As I mentioned this morning, I did just that this morning with the President of China.

Stretch [Richard Keil, Bloomberg News].

Iraqi Regime Compliance With U.N. Resolutions

Q. Mr. President, given the facts as Secretary Powell laid them out at the U.N. the other day, do you really see any means of disarming Saddam other than, at this point, using military force?

The President. That's up to Saddam Hussein. I mean, the record is poor, at best. The man has been told to disarm for 12 long years. He's ignored the demands of the free world. And then we passed another resolution, and for 90 days he's—the best way I can describe it is—played a game with the inspectors. So the U.N. Security Council has got to make up its mind soon as to whether or not its word means anything.

And you know, I've never felt we needed a resolution; 1441 speaks very clearly. It talks about serious consequences if he doesn't disarm. However, I said yesterday that it would be helpful to have a resolution so long as it demands compliance with 1441, confirms the spirit of 1441. But Saddam Hussein is—he's treated the demands of the world as a joke up to now, and it was his choice to make. He's the person who gets to decide war and peace.

Q. Do you have any confidence in him at all, given his track record, that he will change his ways?

The President. This is a guy who was asked to declare his weapons, said he didn't have any. This is a person who we have proven to the world is deceiving everybody. I mean, he's a master at it. He's a master of deception. As I said yesterday, he'll probably try it again. He'll probably try to lie his way out of compliance or deceive or put out some false statement. You know, if he wanted to disarm, he would have disarmed. We know what a disarmed regime looks like.

I heard somebody say the other day, "Well, how about a beefed-up inspection regime?" Well, the role of inspectors is to sit there and verify whether or not he's disarmed, not to play hide-and-seek in a country the size of California. If Saddam Hussein was interested in peace and interested in complying with the U.N. Security Council resolutions, he would have disarmed. And yet, for 12 years, plus 90 days, he has tried to avoid disarmament by lying and deceiving.

Yes, John [John Cochran, ABC News], last question, then we've got to go swear the man in.

Q. Sir, if the Security Council doesn't go along with you, what happens then?

The President. I have said that if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. And I mean it.

Thank you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:48 a.m. outside the Treasury Building. In his remarks, he referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; President Jiang Zemin of China; Chairman Kim Chong-il of North Korea; President Vladimir Putin of Russia; and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks Prior to the Swearing-In Ceremony for John Snow as Secretary of the Treasury and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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