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Lee, Bush Urge Progress on N. Korea’s Human Rights

Posted August. 07, 2008 06:23,   


President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday urged meaningful progress in improving North Korea’s human rights in the process of normalizing relations with Pyongyang.

The two leaders held their third summit yesterday morning since President Lee took office in Seoul, and reaffirmed their commitment to improving the North’s human rights in a joint statement and news conference.

This is the first time for the leaders of the two nations to mention the North’s human rights in a joint statement.

Bush expressed regret and his condolences over the shooting death of a South Korean tourist at the North’s Mount Geumgang resort. He said North Korea must engage in inter-Korean dialogue to promptly resolve the case and prevent recurrence of such a tragedy, adding Washington supports Seoul’s bid for a joint investigation.”

Lee added, “Pyongyang must actively cooperate with Seoul in thoroughly investigating the case, which should never have happened, and providing measures to prevent a recurrence.”

Bush also said North Korea remains a member of his “axis of evil” list. "The human rights abuses inside the country still exist and persist,” he said. “The North Korean leader has yet to fully verify the extent to which he has had a highly enriched uranium program. There`s still more steps to be done on the plutonium program.”

On the North’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, Bush said the first chance could come Tuesday, 45 days after notifying Congress. To proceed, however, Pyongyang must take necessary verification measures for denuclearization, he said.

Bush added North Korea’s delisting is uncertain and if not removed, the North will remain as “the most sanctioned regime in the world.”

Lee said the two leaders did not discuss a Korean troop dispatch to Afghanistan, whereas Bush said the only request he made on this was for Lee to consider sending non-combat staff to the Central Asian country.

On the free trade agreement, the two leaders agreed to do their best to have the deal ratified by year’s end.

They also decided to strengthen joint military defense and continue talks on the transfer of wartime operational control back to Korea and relocation of U.S. military bases in Korea.

Seoul and Washington will engage in close cooperation to establish a thorough verification protocol for Pyongyang’s nuclear program for complete and accurate declaration. They will also persuade the North to fully abandon its nuclear weapons and programs through a three-step process; tackle global climate change; and counter terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and international crimes.

Lee and Bush also pledged to launch the Work, English Study and Travel program, which will allow 5,000 Korean college students per year to study English and work in the United States.

They agreed to complete Korea’s inclusion in the U.S. visa waiver program within this year, and promote cooperation in space science with Seoul planning to join NASA’s moon network project.