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North Korea says it will uphold agreement if U.S. does

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DEB RIECHMANN
December 14, 2007
— President Bush said Friday that he got Kim Jong Il’s attention by writing the North Korean leader a letter and that Kim can get his attention by fully disclosing his nuclear programs and proliferation activities.

The White House said Kim verbally responded through a diplomatic channel on Wednesday to a letter Bush sent to him earlier this month. The letter, the president’s first to the leader of the communist regime, was viewed as a personal gesture from Bush, who once branded North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.”


“I got his attention with a letter and he can get my attention by fully disclosing his programs, including any plutonium he may have processed and converted some of that into whatever he’s used it for. We just need to know,” Bush said in the Rose Garden after a meeting with his Cabinet. “As well, he can get our attention by fully disclosing his proliferation activities.”


“An important step is a full declaration of programs, materials that may have been developed to create weapons, as well as the proliferation activities of the regime.”


A senior U.S. official with knowledge of the contents of North Korea’s message said it was delivered through a diplomatic channel in New York and contained what appeared to be a pledge from Pyongyang to follow through on its denuclearization deal as long as the United States held to its end of the bargain.


North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing reactor last month under watch of U.S. experts. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to seek normalizing ties with North Korea and remove the country from terrorism and trade sanctions blacklists.


“We’ll live up to our side, we hope you’ll live up to yours,” the official paraphrased Kim’s message as saying. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private diplomatic exchange.


The message was the country’s first official response to the letter from Bush.


“We received a verbal reply,” Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said at the White House. “All members of the six-party talks look forward to the full implementation of the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”



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