President Clinton told U.S. troops on Sunday that recent provocations from both Iraq and North Korea demand "we must remain vigilant."
On his first visit to the Korean Peninsula since April 1996, Clinton met with American soldiers, sailors and Marines near one of the world's most hostile borders and pressed his warning against North Korean nuclear proliferation.
"Lately signs of danger have intensified with incursions from the North, provocative missile tests and the question of a suspected underground (nuclear) installation," Clinton told troops at Osan Air Base. "So we must remain vigilant. And thanks to you we are."
Although recent U.S. attention has focused on the threat from Iraq and its weapons program, the tensions with North Korea because of its suspected nuclear ambitions "remain an area of great concern," Clinton said.
"Our ability to succeed in promoting peace is uniquely due to the fact that we can back up our diplomatic efforts when necessary with military strength and that depends on you," Clinton said.
Clinton won South Korea's support on Saturday for confronting North Korea over a suspected nuclear site, and he warned the North's communist leaders not to squander an historic chance to make a lasting peace on the peninsula, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante.
President Kim Dae-jung, appearing with Clinton at a news conference, pledged that his government would "spare no effort in supporting the U.S. endeavor" to resolve the nuclear question. He called for full access for U.S. inspectors at a North Korean underground facility and said the North must constrain its development and exports of missiles.
Clinton also held a roundtable discussion with business leaders Saturday to hear their prescriptions for putting the Korea's economy back on track.
Economics and security are Clinton's twin themes on a five-day Asia trip that began in Japan and ended with a stop in Guam on Monday.
Clinton acknowledged that U.S. intelligence officials are not yet certain that the suspicious underground construction project in North Korea is nuclear-related. But he said the North risks closing the door on cooperation if it refuses a U.S. inspection of the site.
"It raises a strong suspicion," Clinton said Saturday at a joint news conference with Kim at the Blue House, the presidential mansion overlooking the capital. "We need access to it."
In meetings this week in North Korea, U.S. officials were rebuffed after requesting to see the suspicious underground site.
The foundation of U.S. efforts to ease North Korea's decades-long hostility toward the South is a 1994 "agreed framework" in which the North halted its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a Western commitment to build modern nuclear energy sources there. That deal would be shattered if the underground site turned out to be a clandestine nclear project.
Preliminary North-South peace talks -- which were hoped could produce a treaty to replace the a shaky 1953 armistice -- would also be in jeapordy.
Kim, who has moved South Korea to a "sunshine" policy of engaging North Korea on cultural and economic fronts, said his government firmly supports Clinton on the nuclear issue.
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