WASHINGTON – President Bush says North Korea must be convinced that it is wrong "to be threatening the United States" with a resumption of nuclear weapons development.
In an interview with 14 newspapers from around the country, Bush noted Monday that diplomatic efforts are under way to persuade China, Russia, South Korea and Japan to work with Washington in seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff involving the nuclear weapons program.
Those countries should "join us in convincing North Korea that it is not in their nation's interest to be threatening the United States, or anybody else for that matter, with a nuclear weapon," the president said.
Asked how successful these efforts had been, Bush said: "It's in process. If they don't work diplomatically, they'll have to work militarily. And military option is our last choice. Options are on the table, but I believe we can deal with this diplomatically. I truly do."
Bush told the reporters he called them in to "explain to people why I make the decisions I make."
Some of the papers noted that Bush said again that he is aware of large protests around the world against his Iraq policy, but will not let his decision be affected by them. And he discounted any notion that demonstrations equate to rampant anti-Americanism.
The Baltimore Sun focused on Bush's remarks on North Korea -- in which the president reiterated administration policy that while the military option has not been taken off the table, it would be a last resort.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday he thinks the administration should hold direct talks with the North Korean leadership.
"It's amazing that we're about to go to war with a country that doesn't have nuclear weapons and we refuse to talk to a country that has already produced them," Kennedy said on NBC's Today program, referring the likelihood of a war to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"I think we are in a more dangerous policy with respect to the administration's rush to war," the Massachusetts Democrat said.
Of the war against terrorism, Bush said the capture of a top Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan shows that America's strategy is succeeding, and he promised to pursue the Al Qaeda terrorist network until it's dismantled.
The president's session was closed to other media, but some details surfaced Monday night on the Web sites of some publications.
"I told the American people that this is a different kind of war against Al Qaeda and that we'll have to hunt them down one at a time," Bush said, according to the Sun, one of the papers that attended. "Over the weekend they saw what I meant," he said.
Bush described Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured Saturday in Pakistan and is being held by U.S. officials, as "Al Qaeda's senior general when it comes to plotting attacks on America," according the Sun's account.
Bush also vowed to pursue the Al Qaeda network until it "is completely dismantled," the Sun reported.
According to the Sun, the president also defended his tax cut plan and said it would stimulate the economy and help pay for the cost of a war with Iraq.
Asked about anti-war protesters, Bush said he was listening to them.
"I care what they believe, and I've listened carefully" said Bush, according to The State in Columbia, S.C., which had a reporter present. "We just have a difference of opinion."
Bush expressed a determination to oust Saddam Hussein from Iraq.
"This is a difficult decision for any president to make," he said, according to the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald account. "...But I've come to the conclusion that the man must be disarmed for the safety of the American people."
At one point he was asked by a reporter how he was preparing mentally and spiritually for a decision on whether to go to war.
"I'm reading the Bible every day," the president replied, according to the Sun. "I'm sleeping well at night. I am sustained by the prayers of the people."