April 20, 2008 in Nation/World

Bush holds talks with South Korean leader

Deb Riechmann Associated Press

CAMP DAVID, Md. – President Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Saturday they still expect North Korea to fully declare its nuclear weapons programs and proliferation activities in a way that can be verified. Bush tamped down assertions that the U.S. is going soft on the communist regime so the nuclear standoff can be resolved before he leaves office.

After two days of meetings at the Camp David presidential retreat, Bush and Lee urged patience, saying critics need to see what North Korea says in its long-promised declaration before deciding whether the U.S. and its partners are being too lenient.

“Thanks to the six-party framework, North Korea has begun disabling the plutonium production facilities at Yongbyon,” Bush said with Lee at his side. “Now North Korea must fulfill its other obligations: Provide a full declaration of its nuclear programs and proliferation activities in a verifiable way.”

Lee, a pro-American conservative who took office in February, is the first South Korean president to visit the secluded wooded retreat northwest of Washington. Bush’s invitation was meant to give the two an informal venue to get acquainted and cement U.S.-South Korea ties, which have been tense in recent years.

Lee has said that repairing relations with the United States is a top priority – that they “lacked trust” under his more liberal predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun.

Lee described his conversations with Bush as “open and frank.” Bush accepted Lee’s offer to visit South Korea this summer.

The two talked about prospects for a free-trade agreement, South Korea’s decision to lift its ban on U.S. beef sales, exchange programs and a repositioning of U.S. troops on the peninsula, but North Korea was a key subject of their discussions.

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