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Bush says pushing diplomacy, despite NKorea threat

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) President George W Bush pledged today to keep up efforts to resolve the North Korea nuclear standoff diplomatically, despite Pyongyang's warning of the risk of war if South Korea joins US-led sanctions.

''The leader of North Korea likes to threaten,'' Bush told a White House news conference. ''What he's doing is just testing the will of the five countries that are working together to convince him there is a better way forward for his people.'' The UN Security Council voted on October 14 to impose financial and arms sanctions on North Korea after it staged its first nuclear test earlier this month, but how those measures will be implemented remains a matter of debate.

Bush spoke after North Korea warned South Korea its participation in sanctions would be seen as a serious provocation leading to a ''crisis of war'' on the Korean peninsula.

''Our goal is to continue to remind our partners that when we work together, we're more likely to be able to achieve the objective, which is to solve this problem diplomatically,'' Bush said when asked about the North Korean threat.

Washington has played down military options in dealing with North Korea's defiance, but has not ruled anything out.

Bush said he had been briefed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after her return from Moscow, Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing for talks on the North Korea situation.

''Her report is that all countries understand we must work closely together to solve this problem peacefully,'' he said. The United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea are all members of stalled six-party talks with North Korea.

China voted in favor of UN sanctions but both Beijing and Seoul fear that if they squeeze the impoverished North too tightly it could ruin ties and risk the North's collapse.

Reuters PB DB2231

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