President Bush said Friday that he and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun intend to speak with "one voice" on the urgency of getting North Korea to rejoin stalled six-nation talks on its nuclear program. But Roh said some differences remain on approach.
"South Korea and the United States share the same goal, and that is a Korean peninsula with no nuclear weapons," Mr. Bush said. North Korea's nuclear program was the top item on the agenda of the two leaders in their Oval Office meeting.
Generally, South Korea favors more engagement with the North, while the United States has staked out a harder line position. The Bush administration wants China and South Korea to do more to persuade Pyongyang to return to the talks, which have been deadlocked for nearly a year.
Roh said there were some remaining differences between his country and the United States.
"There are one or two minor issues, but I'm certain we will be able to work them out with dialogue," Roh said.
"We'll continue to work to have one voice," Mr. Bush said.
North Korea has sent mixed signals on whether it will return to the talks, which also include the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. Earlier this week, North Korean diplomats indicated they were willing to rejoin the talks, but set no date. However, a North Korean official later boasted that the communist regime already has a nuclear stockpile, and was making more weapons.
Mr. Bush said that despite such talk, he was hopeful that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could be persuaded to send a delegation back to the talks and to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"The (South Korean) president and I both agree the six-party talks are essential to saying to Mr. Kim Jong Il that he ought to give up his weapons, and making it very clear to him that the way to join the community of nations is to listen to China and South Korea and Japan and Russia and the United States, and that is to give up nuclear weapons."
"We laid out a way forward last June and it's a reasonable proposal and we're still awaiting the answer to that proposal," he said.
Still, it was clear that the two leaders hadn't bridged all their differences.
"There are, admittedly, many people who worry about potential discord or cacophony" between the United States and North Korea on the issue, Roh said, speaking through a translator. But, he added, "whatever problem arises in the course of our negotiations and talks, we will be able to work them out under close consultations."
Then, he turned to Mr. Bush and posed a question: "How do you feel, Mr. President? Wouldn't you agree that the alliance is strong...?"
"I would say the alliance is very strong, Mr. President," Mr. Bush responded. "And I want to thank you for your frank assessment of the situation on the peninsula."
Mr. Bush opened his remarks by expressing "my country's deepest condolences" on the accidental death of a 51-year-old Korean woman who was killed when she was struck by a U.S. military truck near Seoul.