WASHINGTON — President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanded on Friday that North Korea live up to its promises and fully abandon its nuclear weapons program. The two leaders threatened more sanctions against Pyongyang for continued stalling.
"There's a price to pay," Bush said, standing alongside Abe in a hangar on the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.
"Our partners in the six-party talks are patient, but our patience is not unlimited," Bush said, referring to disarmament talks between the United States, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and North Korea
For his part, Abe said, "We completely see eye to eye on this matter." He said the North Koreans "need to respond properly on these issues. Otherwise we will have to take a tougher response on our side."
North Korea missed a deadline two weeks ago to shut down its nuclear reactor under an agreement reached in February.
Bush's words appeared to be an attempt to persuade Abe that the United States is not softening its stance on North Korea, as some in Japan have suggested.
Anger over 'comfort women' comment
On another subject, Abe apologized for the Japanese military's actions in forcing women - so-called comfort women - to work in military brothels during World War II.
He said he had "deep-hearted sympathies" for those women and was sorry they were "placed in extreme hardships and had to suffer that sacrifice."
"I, as prime minister of Japan, express my apologies, and also express my apologies for the fact that they were placed in that sort of circumstance," Abe said.
Abe created a controversy recently by suggesting their was no evidence Japan's Imperial Army had directly coerced Asian women to work in brothels.
At Camp David, Abe said he had sought to clarify his remarks in his meetings with members of Congress on Thursday, and again with Bush on Friday.
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At the same time, Abe said that "human rights were violated in many parts of the world" in the past century. "So we have to make the 21st century a wonderful century in which no human rights are violated," he said. He said he and his country would make "a significant contribution to this end."
Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, a sponsor of a nonbinding House resolution calling for Japan to formally apologize for its role in the sexual enslavement of thousands of Asian women, said he was heartened by Abe's apology.
"The logical extension of Mr. Abe's remarks is now for the government of Japan to endorse the prime minister's personal sentiments in a formal, official and unambiguous fashion," Honda said in a statement.
On the North Korean nuclear issue, Abe said existing Japanese food and economic sanctions "will worsen" if North Korea continues to defy the international community.
A U.S. decision to allow the return of $25 million in disputed North Korean money in an attempt to move the disarmament process forward has been criticized in Japan as a sign of Bush administration softness.
Bush addressed this issue, saying, "There's a financial arrangement that we're now trying to clarify for the North Koreans, so that that will enable them to have no excuse for moving forward. And that's where we are right now."
"I think it's wise to show the North Korean leader as well that there's a better way forward. I wouldn't call that soft," said Bush.
On another nuclear weapons issue, Bush also said that "we speak with one voice to the regime in Iran."
"Further defiance by Iran will only lead to additional sanctions and to further isolation from the international community," Bush said.
Abe said he raised with Bush the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Pyongyang sent home five of the 13 people it admitted having abducted, but it insisted the rest were dead. Japan has demanded proof and says more of its citizens may have been taken.
Until the issue is resolved, Tokyo has taken a hard line and has refused to provide energy and economic aid to North Korea or to normalize relations.
"With regard to the abduction issue, President Bush once again expressed his unvarying commitment to support the government of Japan," Abe said.
The leaders of the world's two largest economies also discussed trade, encouraging use of biofuels, the Iraq war, and Japan's continued restrictions on U.S. beef imports because of a perceived danger of mad cow disease.
"One such issue, of course, I brought up to the prime minister is I'm absolutely convinced the Japanese people will be better off when they eat American beef. It's good beef. It's healthy beef. As a matter of fact, I'm going to feed the prime minister and his delegation a good hamburger today for lunch," Bush said.
Abe's two-day U.S. visit was his first since becoming prime minister in September.
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