Bush Prods North Korea's Neighbors to Unite

President Bush has been working the phones urging North Korea's neighbors to send a common message: Pyongyang will not be rewarded for ignoring the world. The way forward, the president says, is to return to six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

We're going to begin this hour with North Korea and Iran, the two nuclear challenges facing the U.S. and the world. We'll hear about Iran in a few minutes. First, President Bush says he's hoping the international community will speak with one voice when it comes to North Korea. He wants countries in the region to urge North Korea to stop testing missiles and to get back to talks on its nuclear program. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

President Bush has been working the phones, calling his counterparts in South Korea, Japan, Russia and China. He says he's been urging them to be clear with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Let's send a common message, that you won't be rewarded for ignoring the world, and that you'll be isolated if you continue to do this, and yet there's a way forward.

KELEMEN: The president was referring to the six-party talks, which have been stalled since last year. North Korea says its missile tests have nothing to do with those talks. A statement by the Foreign Ministry, said North Korea was simply exercising its legitimate right to test missiles, and will go forward with further launches. U.S. officials acknowledge that North Korea seems comfortable with being isolated. U.S. policy options look limited. Still, President Bush told reporters today, he believes further isolation is the only way to contain the threat, and he says all the regional powers need to work in concert.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Diplomacy takes a while, particularly when you're dealing with a variety of partners. And so we're spending time, diplomatically, making sure that voice is unified.

KELEMEN: At the United Nations, diplomats tried to come up with a united message. Japan is urging the Security Council to pass a resolution, but Russia and China have suggested a less confrontational presidential statement, which carries no threat of sanctions. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said talking about sanctions right away would only lead to a more-tense atmosphere.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, emphasized the positive parts of the Security Council consultations.

U.N. Ambassador JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador to United Nations): There may be a disagreement at the moment over the vehicle that we use here in the Council, but no one speaks in favor of North Korea. No one takes the North Korean line. Nobody says it was a good thing that North Korea launched these missiles.

KELEMEN: Ambassador Bolton called this a test case for the U.N. Security Council. He's used similar language about Iran. The U.S. was not able to get the Council to pass a binding resolution on Iran earlier this year. The U.S. and its allies are now waiting to see if Iran will accept a package of incentives, meant to draw Tehran back to negotiations on its nuclear program. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says, if Iran does not reply by next week, the U.S. will revise its push for Security Council action. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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