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Tension persists between U.S. and South Korea



Published: Sat, June 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Though they have publicly declared their alliance, it has yet to be demonstrated.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun sought Friday to de-emphasize deepening divisions between them, declaring themselves fully united in their goals for the Korean peninsula.

Before a White House meeting, Bush asserted that the two governments "share the same goals" and that "the alliance is very strong." Roh said that the two are "in full and perfect agreement."

Yet although the two again called for a resumption of the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, in a brief appearance before reporters they offered no evidence that they had overcome their growing differences on how to deal with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

They avoided any mention of seeking United Nations Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang, a course advocated by some in the Bush administration and opposed by Seoul.

Presenting incentives

Also, Bush made clear that the United States was not about to offer more incentives to the North Koreans to cooperate, as the Roh government wants it to do.

Responding to a reporter's question, Bush said that other nations had offered various incentives to Pyongyang.

"The plan is still there, it's full of inducements," he said.

With the six-party talks stalled for a year and Pyongyang showing signs of accelerating its nuclear weapons program, some senior administration officials have been pushing for a harder line on North Korea.

Roh's government fears that the United States could become too hawkish, and has been urging American officials to do more instead to draw Pyongyang back into negotiations.

Strained friendship

Although Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared earlier this week that the six-party talks were their chief goal, the differences in viewpoint have become ever more apparent. Some foreign policy specialists in both countries contend that U.S.-South Korean relations are at their lowest point in the past half-century, and Roh's conservative opponents are attacking him for allegedly harming the alliance.

North Korean officials met with U.S. officials Monday in New York to discuss resumption of the talks. However, they have not set a date for resumption of the negotiations; some U.S. officials believe the move might have been intended to throw off any effort to take their case to the United Nations.

Roh acknowledged that in each of the four times he has met with Bush "questions abound regarding the possible existence of differences between the United States and South Korea surrounding the North Korea nuclear issue."

He said there were "admittedly many people who worry about potential discord or cacophony between the two powers ..."




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