President George W. Bush's Remarks on Diplomatic Solution with North Korea and Iran

May 31, 2005

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  • North Korea

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Q: Mr. President, thank you. I wonder if you can explain the administration's decision to allow Iran, in its negotiations with the Europeans, to get WTO status, ascension into the WTO, whether you think that deal, in a sense, has legs. And also, you talked about Iraq being a powerful symbol in that part of the world. One of the things you said going into the war was that it would deter other countries, rogue nations, from developing weapons of mass destruction. And when you think about North Korea and Iran, the opposite is true -- they haven't been deterred at all. Why do you think that is?

THE PRESIDENT: The first part of your question was about our agreement that Iran should apply for WTO. In other words, we said, fine, if you want to apply for WTO, go ahead and apply. That's -- and we did that to facilitate the EU-3 discussions with Iran.

I've always believed that the -- obviously, the best way to solve any difficult issue is through diplomacy. And in this case, France, Great Britain and Germany are handling the negotiations on behalf of the rest of the world, which is those nations which are deeply concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon.

Now, our policy is very clear on that, and that is that the Iranians violated the NPT agreement; we found out they violated the agreement, and, therefore, they're not to be trusted when it comes to highly-enriched uranium -- or highly-enriching uranium. And, therefore, our policy is to prevent them from having the capacity to develop enriched uranium to the point where they're able to make a nuclear weapon.

Secondly -- and so, therefore, we're working with the EU-3 to hopefully convince the Iranians to abandon their pursuits of such a program. And it appears we're making some progress.

So our decision was to allow them to join the WTO -- or to apply to join the WTO -- which is not ascension to the WTO, it's the right to make an application -- seemed like a reasonable decision to make in order to advance the negotiations with our European partners.

Secondly, in terms of North Korea, North Korea had a weapons program that they had concealed, as you might recall, prior to 2002. As a matter of fact, it was prior to 2000 -- it as a bilateral -- so-called bilateral agreement between North Korea and the United States. And it turns out that they had violated that agreement because they were enriching uranium, contrary to the agreement. And we caught them on that. And therefore, I decided to change the policy to encourage other nations to be involved with convincing North Korea to abandon its weapons program. And that's where we are.

And it's important to have China at the table, for example, saying the same thing that the United States is saying, and that is, is that if you want to be a -- if you want to be a responsible nation, get rid of your weapons programs. It's important to have Japan and South Korea and Russia saying the same thing.

We've got a lot of work to do with the North Korean because he -- he tends to ignore what the other five nations are saying at times. But that doesn't mean we're going to stop, and continue to press forward to making it clear that if he expects to be treated as a responsible nation, that he needs to listen to the five nations involved.

Thank you.

Q: Would you acknowledge that the war did not deter Iran and North Korea from continuing to pursue their program?

THE PRESIDENT: North Korea had its weapons program before, as you know, as did Iran. And as I also told you, David, that we want diplomacy to work. And it's -- we want diplomacy to be given a chance to work. And that's exactly the position of the government. Hopefully it will work. I think it will.

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