Bush fails to win South Korea's support for ship inspection program

Friday, November 17th 2006, 9:19 pm

By: News On 6

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) President Bush, trying to stiffen global resolve to confront North Korea, failed to win South Korea's support Saturday for a tough inspection program to intercept ships suspected of carrying supplies for Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missiles.

Bush sought to persuade South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to fully implement U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for testing nuclear weapons. He also sought South Korea's support in the Proliferation Security Initiative, a voluntary international program that calls for stopping ships suspected of trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

Roh said his country ``is not taking part in the full scope'' of the security initiative, but that it would ``support the principles and goals of the PSI,'' and would cooperate in preventing the transfer of materiel for weapons of mass destruction in northeast Asia.

Bush met with Roh before the opening of a summit of 21 Pacific Rim leaders. The president tried to put the best face on the disagreement, saying he and Roh have a mutual desire to ``effectively enforce the will of the world'' through U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear test.

``I appreciate the cooperation we're receiving from South Korea for the Proliferation Security Initiative,'' Bush said.

``Our desire is to solve the North Korean issue peacefully,'' Bush said.

``We want the North Korean leaders to hear that if it gives up its weapons, nuclear weapons ambitions, that we would be willing to enter into security arrangements with the North Koreans, as well as move forward new economic incentives for the North Korean people,'' he said.

North Korea is a primary target of the Proliferation Security Initiative. South Korea has only been an observer to the program out of concern its direct participation in stopping and searching North Korean ships could lead to armed clashes with its volatile neighbor.

The White House acknowledged that Roh faced political pressure back home not to anger North Korea.

Bush ``understands political constraints,'' White House press secretary Tony Snow said. ``We just had an election'' in which Bush's Republican Party lost control of Congress for the first time in 12 years. Snow said South Korea promised support for the PSI program but he offered no details of Seoul's cooperation.

Bush was the second U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the war ended three decades ago with U.S. defeat.

In Hanoi, powerful reminders remain of the fighting three decades ago, the longest U.S. war and one that, like Iraq, bitterly divided Americans.

Asked if the experience in Vietnam offered lessons for Iraq, Bush said, ``We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile.''

He said ``it's just going to take a long period of time'' for ``an ideology of freedom to overcome an ideology of hate. Yet, the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately.''

``We'll succeed unless we quit,'' the president said.

His talk about impatience brought a rejoinder back home from Sen. Dick Durbin, who will be the second-ranking Democrat in the new Senate.

``I think we ought to show a little impatience when it comes to the Iraqis and their unwillingness to respond to the need to change,'' Durbin said at a St. Louis news conference. ``America has been patient. Our troops have been heroic. ... It is time for the Iraqis to stand up and defend their own country.

In weekend discussions, Bush hoped to coordinate strategy with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea for the resumption of disarmament negotiations with North Korea. Bush was to see Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, later Saturday.

In all, leaders of 21 nations and territories are gathered here, and it is unclear whether the summit will produce a unified stand toward North Korea.

As for local Vietnamese, the turnout for Bush as his motorcade moved past storefronts was far more subdued that the enthusiastic reception that greeted President Clinton six years ago. A few people waved, but most merely watched impassively. Weary of war, many here deeply disapprove of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

Bush's limousine took him along Truc Bach lake, where then Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, now a Republican senator from Arizona, was captured after parachuting from his damaged warplane. McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.

``He suffered a lot as a result of his imprisonment, and yet we passed the place where he was literally saved, in one way, by the people pulling him out,'' Bush said. He was talking with reporters after meeting with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, a staunch partner in Iraq.

Bush was to pay a visit Saturday to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, charged with recovering and identifying the remains of Americans who were killed in action but never brought home. With personnel in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Hawaii, the command identifies about six MIAs each month.

Reflecting on his visit, Bush said that ``my first reaction is history has a long march to it, and that societies change and relationships can constantly be altered to the good.''

There were bronze busts of Ho Chi Minh, the victorious North's revolutionary communist leader, as Bush met with the Vietnamese president, the prime minister, and the general secretary of the Communist Party. But there also were signs of change and Vietnam's quest to replace poverty with prosperity.

Nong Duc Manh, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, was quoted by the White House as telling Bush that his country wanted to ``put aside the past and look forward to the future.'' Facing resistance in Congress, Bush was unable to deliver promised normalized trade benefits to Vietnam but said he was confident they would eventually win approval.

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