STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING Edition from NPR News. Renee Montagne is in Afghanistan. I'm Steve Inskeep.
(Soundbite of North Korea radio broadcast)
Unidentified Announcer: (Foreign language spoken)
INSKEEP: That's reception of the North Korea Central Broadcasting Station in Pyongyang announcing today that North Korea carried out a nuclear test. The statement described the event as "a historic event that gave great encouragement and joy to our army and people."
Not surprisingly, countries around the world have a very different reaction. In the last few minutes, President Bush made this statement at the White House.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.
INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent David Greene joins us now. And, David, you were just listening to the president, what more did he say?
DAVID GREENE: Well, one of the things that he mentioned, Steve, is the threat of proliferation from North Korea. And I was struck that he made that such a part of his remarks, because that's really always been the big concern from the White House point of view. Obviously, if North Korea did carry out a successful test and could potentially build and put nuclear technology on a warhead, that would be a big problem. But the White House has always been even more worried than North Korea being aggressive itself, they've been worried about them passing technology to other countries. And the president gave North Korea a very stern warning that if they pass this technology on there will be real repercussions.
INSKEEP: So as you listen to this statement, looking between the lines if necessary to see what the president is going to do about this, what signs do you see?
GREENE: Well, Steve, he has very few options. And the White House really emphasized overnight that they're not considering military options, while they would never put that off the table totally. But the president talked about he's going to work with allies. He's going to go to the United Nations; they're going to be meeting today and they're going to be looking at what they can do diplomatically.
This is a moment, Steve, where I think you're going to see a president whose often criticized for going it alone and taking unilateral actions whose really going to be able to, at least for now, stand with other countries at the U.N. and try to come up with an approach and a response that will really involve a lot of different countries.
Now there are certainly the potential for disagreements. And South Korea, which has wanted to take a more engaging approach with the North Koreans, has often disagreed with the U.S. And we might see some of those disagreements come to the fore again. But for the moment you're going to see a president, as he said, really stand with other countries, try to emphasize the diplomacy.
You know, when White House spokesman Tony Snow woke up reporters in the middle of the night, one of the first things he told reporters was that when the president was informed he asked: Are we taking all the diplomatic steps that we need to? So really emphasizing that the U.S. isn't going to go into a military mode at this point.
INSKEEP: Emphasizing that the approach here is different than it was with Iraq, say?
GREENE: Exactly. That's very true.
INSKEEP: Although the president has said he will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea, which appears to be what we have now.
GREENE: It does. And that's where he's really going to be open to criticism. You know, on the campaign trail - this is an election year - and Democrats already have been bringing up North Korea as an example of what they say is a failed foreign policy by this administration. There are some greater threats they say from North Korea, from Iran. Iraq and Afghanistan have been failed policies they say. So we'll see what happens out there on the campaign trail if Democrats try to use this as an example of failed policy.
You know, the White House has been very critical of President Clinton and has said that his policy of engagement of going to North Korea with roses and chocolate to try and engage them failed and proved that that was not the right approach. And they've said that's the reason they've taken a more hard-line approach and insisted on no talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
INSKEEP: And here it's an indication, at least from Democrats' point of view, that it didn't work, which is not the only problem that the White House has when they look at the campaign this fall.
GREENE: It's not, and I'm sure Democrats are looking at this as an opportunity to really head out and hit the administration again. It's been a tough week to 10 days, as you know, Steve, because the Mark Foley scandal only seems to expand. We have news this morning from The Washington Post suggesting that Republicans knew about Foley's e-mails to pages a few years before they even acknowledge.
INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.
GREENE: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent David Greene. He was just speaking about the scandal involving former Congressman Mark Foley.
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