President Bush expressed frustration Friday with the slow pace of diplomacy in dealing with North Korea and Iran and prodded world leaders to send an unmistakable message condemning Pyongyang’s long-range missile test.
He said the United States would have had “a reasonable chance” of shooting down the missile if it had been necessary, though America’s missile-defense system is still in the testing phase and its capabilities are modest. More than $100 billion has been spent on the system since 1983.
On the terror war, the president said at a rare out-of-town news conference that the United States has not relaxed its nearly five-year search for Osama bin Laden and he vowed the terrorist leader would be found: “Absolutely. No ands, ifs or buts.
“And, my judgment, it’s a matter of time, unless we stop looking. And we’re not going to stop looking so long as I’m the president,” Bush said.
The president’s overnight stop in Chicago — including dinner with Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley and breakfast with locals at a popular restaurant — was part of a strategy to boost Bush’s sagging popularity by putting him on the road more often this summer in friendly settings.
Daley joined Bush at Friday’s news conference, where the president called him a “great mayor” and said he was proud to call him a friend.
‘A noble and just cause’
There was a heavy dose of political fundraising on the trip, too, as Bush helped raise $1.2 million for Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican state treasurer who is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Outside the Drake Hotel where the fundraiser was held, several dozen protesters carried sometimes vicious anti-Bush and anti-war messages. A couple of the demonstrators burned American flags.
At his news conference, Bush called the Iraq war “a noble and just cause” and said the United States would not leave before winning.
“We will lose if we leave too early,” the president said. “The stakes of success are vital.” He repeated his oft-stated position that it will be up to military commanders to say when it is appropriate to withdraw U.S. troops.
Bush came here as the United Nations struggled over how to deal with North Korea, which defied world appeals and test-fired a long-range missile that fell into the sea 42 seconds after launch this week. China and Russia have balked at a proposed Japanese resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea.
“What matters most of all is for Kim Jong Il to see the world speak with one voice,” Bush said. “That’s the purpose, really.”
‘Takes a while’
In months of negotiations, Beijing and Moscow also have had reservations about penalizing Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
“You’re watching the diplomacy work not only in North Korea but in Iran,” the president said.
“And it’s, kind of — you know, it’s kind of painful in a way for some to watch, because it takes a while to get people on the same page,” Bush said. “Not everybody thinks the exact same way we think. Different words mean different things to different people. And the diplomatic processes can be slow and cumbersome.”
Asked if he felt a sense of urgency in dealing with North Korea and Iran, Bush said, “I’m realistic about how things move in the world.” He said he wanted diplomatic rather than military solutions.
Bush said Kim Jong Il, in ordering the missile tests, had defied China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States — the five countries that have been negotiating unsuccessfully with North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
“All of us said, ‘Don’t fire that rocket.’ He not only fired one, he fired seven. Now that he made that defiance, it’s best for all of us to go to the U.N. Security Council and say, loud and clear, ‘Here’s some red lines.’ And that’s what we’re in the process of doing,” Bush said.
He ruled out direct talks between just the United States and North Korea and said he hoped the six-party talks would resume.
“My judgment is you can’t be successful if the United States is sitting at the table alone with North Korea. You run out of options very quickly if that’s the case,” he said. “In order to be successful diplomatically it’s best to have other partners at the table.”