WASHINGTON, DC—With concern over North Korea's nuclear capabilities growing, President Bush reassured the American people Monday that "extreme force" will be used to remove Saddam Hussein from power if the Iraqi president fails to give up suspected weapons of mass destruction.
"For years, Kim Jong Il has acted in blatant disregard of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons, and last week, he rejected it outright," Bush told reporters after a National Security Council meeting on North Korea. "We cannot allow weapons of mass destruction to remain in the hands of volatile, unpredictable leaders. Which is exactly why we must act quickly and decisively against Saddam Hussein."
A member of Bush's "axis of evil," North Korea sparked international outcry in October 2002 after announcing that it had a uranium-enrichment program. After ousting U.N. inspectors, leader Kim Jong Il has continued to defy orders to halt the program.
"I applaud the International Atomic Energy Agency's condemnation of North Korea's nuclear efforts," Bush said. "I trust that the world community will act capably and decisively in this matter—as capably and decisively as the U.S. will act against Iraq."
According to Bush, North Korea and Iraq both pose "significant threats" to important U.S. allies.
"Our friends South Korea and Japan are justifiably fearful of North Korea's emergent nuclear and chemical-weapons technologies," Bush said. "These nations are forced to live with the constant threat of aggression looming over their heads, just as our friends Saudi Arabia and Israel do. The time has come to complete the unfinished business of a decade ago and oust Saddam Hussein."
Added Bush: "This man tried to kill my dad."
U.S. intelligence experts say North Korea likely has one or two nuclear bombs, with plans to rapidly expand its arsenal in the coming years. With two nuclear reactors under construction, the nation could have a system to enrich uranium by 2005, producing enough plutonium for two bombs a year.
"North Korea has a full-scale nuclear program underway, one which may even now have the capability of striking the western U.S.," Bush said. "Even more alarming, Iraq is actively trying to scrounge up enough money to buy something nuclear on the black market, ideally something that can fly through the air."
Bush outlined his administration's plan for the crisis in North Korea, which includes maintaining an open dialogue with Pyongyang and deploying massive troops and materiel to the Gulf region.
At a Jan. 10 press conference, Bush had strong words for the North Korean dictator.
"Kim Jong Il, you have withdrawn from international nuclear treaties and cruelly starved your own people," Bush said. "The world at large will not let your evil deeds go unchallenged. Someone, somewhere will hold you accountable, sooner or later. I do not know who this person is, but somebody will."
"North Korea has been pouring its limited resources into development of a huge military force at the expense of its own people's well-being," Bush continued. "Somebody should take decisive action against this, just as the U.S. did in stopping the Taliban and will soon do in ousting Saddam Hussein."
Seeking to pressure North Korea, a communist nation since the end of the Korean War, into compliance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons, the U.S. has cut off all economic and humanitarian aid.
"By providing support to North Korea, America was indirectly propping up an oppressive regime," Bush said. "That food and fuel will be much better used by the proud men and women of the U.S. military—such as the 45,000 members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, who at this moment are in California preparing for deployment to the Middle East."
"You have my prayers, Camp Pendleton," added Bush, giving an officer's salute. "Now, let's roll."