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An Olive Branch of Sorts

In South Korea, American President George W. Bush said that the US had no plans to attack North Korea, but called for open dialogue and reunification.


North Korea's Kim Jong Il: Maybe not that evil

American President George W. Bush stood firm on his "axis of evil" remarks during a daylong visit to South Korea, but offered North Korea a chance to engage in dialogue with the south or the United States at any time.

In two speeches in Seoul, the south’s capital, and 300 feet from the heavily-patrolled demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, Bush promised North Korea would stay on America’s bad side as long as it developed and held weapons of mass destruction.

He repeated a line he used in his State of the Union address to Congress a few weeks ago, in which he now-famously described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil."

"We must not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most dangerous weapons," he said.

But Bush offered an olive branch of sorts as well, saying that he spoke "for these convictions even as we hope for dialogue with the North." He said the United States or South Korea had no intention of invading North Korea.

"We’re a peaceful people," he said.

Bush advocates unity

The President, who has been heavily criticized globally for his State of the Union remarks, said that he had no problem beginning a dialogue with North Korea even as he described it as evil. He referred to former US President Ronald Reagan’s reference to Russia as an "evil empire," but then was able to engage in talks with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

He made an appeal for re-unification at Dorasan Station, a railroad station on the DMZ with a road and rail line that is supposed to connect North and South Korea. The station is a symbol of the stagnation in relations between the two Koreas.

President Kim Dae-jung and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il held a landmark summit in June 2000. The two struck a number of bi-lateral agreements and pledged to take steps towards reunification. But North Korea has failed to fulfill a number of the agreements, including completing their half of the road and rail line.

North Korea praises anti-Bush protests

North Korea maintains that it is the United States, and their soldiers, that is keeping the two halves from re-unification. On Wednesday, the government-controlled news agency praised the many anti-Bush protests held in and around Seoul. They said the visit "aimed to chill the Koreans' enthusiasm for national reunification."

Südkoreanischer demonstriert vor Soldaten

A South Korean protester silently confronts riot police officers trying to stop the group of about 50 protesters from marching to the Presidential Palace where U.S. President George W. Bush and his South Korean counterpart Kim Dae-jung were meeting Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002 in Seoul. Protests against Bush have been daily during Bush's Asia tour as South Koreans voice their fears that Bush's comment about North Korea being part of an "axis of evil" will escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Riot police have had to break up many of the demonstrations, where protestors burn Bush puppets and American flags. A group of students briefly seized the American Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday and hung a protest banner from the chamber’s window.

Protestors are concerned that Bush’s "axis of evil" remarks will lead to a worsening of relations between the two Koreas.

Concern for North Korea

Seeking to calm protestor’s fears Bush said his main concern was the people of North Korea. He pointed out that the US was the largest provider of food to the starved country and said his vision was "a peninsula this is one day united in commerce and cooperation."

He ate lunch with some of the 37,000 US Soldiers still stationed at the DMZ, created after an armistice stopped the Korean War of 1950-1953. South Korea has 680,000 soldiers patrolling the line.

North Korea, which has the world’s fourth largest army, has 2 million of its close to 6 million soldiers on the border former US President Clinton once described as "the scariest place on earth."

After his remarks, Bush borrowed some binoculars and peered through bullet-proof glass across the Cold War’s last frontier.

Asked what he thought as he looked across the border, Bush reportedly said, "We’re ready."

He didn’t say for what.

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