SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has responded to a personal letter from President George W. Bush, saying Pyongyang will meet its obligations under a disarmament-for-aid deal and expects the U.S. to do the same.
Bush, describing his contact with the North's leader, Kim Jong Il, said Friday: "I got his attention with a letter and he can get my attention by fully disclosing his (nuclear) programs, including any plutonium he may have processed and converted some of that into whatever he's used it for. We just need to know."
"As well, he can get our attention by fully disclosing his proliferation activities," Bush told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet. "An important step is a full declaration of programs, materials that may have been developed to create weapons, as well as the proliferation activities of the regime."
North Korea verbally responded Thursday to a letter Bush sent to Kim earlier this month. The letter, Bush's first to the leader of the North's regime, was viewed as a personal gesture from a president who once branded North Korea as part of an "axis of evil."
A senior U.S. official with knowledge of the contents of North Korea's message said it was delivered through the New York diplomatic channel and contained what appeared to be a pledge from Pyongyang to follow through on a deal to abandon its nuclear programs as long as the United States held to its end of the bargain.
North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing reactor last month under watch of U.S. experts. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to begin normalizing ties with North Korea and to remove the country from terrorism and trade sanctions blacklists. The North is said to be working on a declaration of all its nuclear programs due by the end of the year.
"We'll live up to our side; we hope you'll live up to yours," the U.S. official paraphrased Kim's message as saying. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private diplomatic exchange.
The message was the country's first official response to the letter from Bush, but it was unclear if the message was directly from Kim.