CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi warned North Korea Friday that any escalation of its nuclear weapons program would prompt "tougher measures" by the United States and Japan.
They avoided defining what measures they had in mind if Pyongyang moves ahead anyway, and offered few clues about what would trigger U.S. and Japanese action. In some cases where they did give hints, North Korea has already apparently defied the two governments.
"We will not at all tolerate the possession, the development or the transfer of nuclear weapons by North Korea," Koizumi said. The CIA believes North Korea already has one or two nuclear weapons, and North Korea said during talks in Beijing last month that it might test, sell or use its claimed arsenal.
Bush demanded "the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program."
Any number of North Korean actions could represent escalation of North Korea's nuclear program, including proof that North Korea has reprocessed spent nuclear reactor fuel into weapons-grade plutonium, a senior Bush administration official said.
North Korean has said it reprocessed some 8,000 rods, but U.S. intelligence agencies say they have no recent evidence of it.
Launches of North Korean rockets toward Taiwan could also constitute escalation, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan in February.
The two leaders used identical language in issuing their new warning, seeking to reinforce an image of unity in confronting the nuclear crisis.
Bush said "further escalation of the situation by North Korea will require tougher measures from the international community," and Koizumi's remarks contained near-verbatim phrasing.
Both said they believe diplomacy can work, and both said they will not be swayed by North Korean "blackmail." And they agreed that Japan and South Korea should be drawn into future meetings. Those two nations were not at the table for the Beijing talks last month.
Bush and Koizumi sought to build up their personal relationship on their ninth meeting, and spent about two hours chatting at Bush's pool on Thursday. They took a tour of Bush's ranch in his pickup, newly equipped with a winch, and brought a casual feel to their lecterns, shedding the business suits for blue shirts unbuttoned at the necks.
The leaders' time at Bush's ranch, spanning nearly 24 hours, allowed them to cover a wide array of issues, including their countries' sagging economies.
They touched on deflation in Japan and the threat of falling prices in the United States; Iraq reconstruction; Afghanistan; terrorism; and their efforts to ease hunger, poverty and disease.
Koizumi joined an elite club of seven other world leaders who have gotten ranch invitations.
The invitees fall into two camps: Crucial partners Bush needs in tackling thorny issues, in the case of two Saudis who have come here on Mideast peace missions, or those Bush wants to reward for sticking with him through policies unpopular in their countries.
The Japanese leader fit in both categories: Bush is trying to pull North Korea's neighbors into the nuclear issue, and Koizumi backed Bush in the Iraq war despite domestic opposition.
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