President Bush said Friday that he captured North Korea's attention by writing Pyongyang a letter and that Kim Jong Il can get his attention by fully disclosing his nuclear programs and proliferation activities.
Bush's letter to Kim earlier this month was viewed as a personal gesture to North Korea from Bush, who once branded the communist regime as part of an "axis of evil." During the past couple days, North Korea verbally responded through diplomatic channels.
"I got his attention with a letter and he could get my attention by fully disclosing his program including any plutonium he may have processed ... as well he could get our attention by fully disclosing his proliferation activities," Bush said in the Rose Garden following a meeting with his Cabinet.
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 on Thursday. It contained what appeared to be a pledge from Pyongyang to follow through on its denuclearization deal as long as the United States held to its end of the bargain.
"We'll live up to our side, we hope you'll live up to yours," the official paraphrased Kim's message as saying. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private diplomatic exchange.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Friday that the North Korean message was the country’s first official response to Bush’s letter but that it did not directly answer Bush’s demand for full disclosure. It was unclear whether the North Korean message was from leader Kim.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul declined immediate comment.
North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing reactor last month under watch of U.S. experts. In exchange, the United States agreed to seek normalizing ties with North Korea and remove the country from terrorism and trade sanctions blacklists.
"All members of the six-party talks look forward to the full implementation of the September 19, 2005, joint statement and the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” said Gordon Johndroe, White House spokesman.