Bush seeks unity over North Korea

Amid disagreement in Security Council, president wants to keep Pyongyang in isolation


WASHINGTON -- Stepping up his effort to exert diplomatic pressure on North Korea, President Bush consulted by telephone yesterday with his Russian and Chinese counterparts, while diplomats at the United Nations searched for a way to address Pyongyang's missile tests and its threat to launch more.

As the Security Council met for a second day on the issue, the Bush administration sought to dampen expectation of speedy action. The president told reporters that "diplomacy takes a while," and his spokesman, urging patience, said officials were not conducting "diplomacy with an egg timer."

Despite signs of disagreement within the Security Council, Bush sought what he described as a unified approach to keep the North Korean leadership in isolation after it test-fired seven missiles two days ago. By talking to Russia and China, Bush appealed to the two leaders who may pose the most direct obstacles to proposals for concrete penalties against North Korea.

In a statement issued in Beijing, China also urged caution. After President Hu Jintao spoke with Bush, the Chinese government said that "under the current complicated circumstances, it is extremely necessary to maintain calm and restraint."

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, in a live public conference conducted over the Internet, said that threatening North Korea would be counterproductive. He criticized the missile tests but said they "should not lead to such emotions that would drown out common sense."

"We have to create an atmosphere that will lead to compromise," Putin said in the broadcast on a British Broadcasting Corp. Web site and a Russian site.

While each leader urged patience, they are also struggling against limited options, given the restricted trade and diplomatic contacts they have had with North Korea. Bush has sought to further isolate the North's leader, Kim Jong Il, and to encourage more moderate behavior by his regime - with no sign that the approach has had an impact.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said "there are many tools" available to the United States and its partners. "But I'm not going to lay out for you the full options," he said, in keeping with the administration's refusal to discuss possibilities other than diplomacy.

Pentagon officials continued to play down any U.S. military role in the response to North Korea's missile tests. The Navy announced yesterday that the aircraft carrier Enterprise was being redeployed from the Persian Gulf, where it backed the U.S. effort in Iraq, to the western Pacific, where it will join the Navy's 7th Fleet. The fleet conducted a huge set of military maneuvers near Guam last month. Military officials said the ship movements were routine and had been planned.

Historically, China and Russia have been North Korea's closest - though at times estranged - partners, and China and South Korea have conducted modest commerce with their isolated neighbor.

Bush's telephone diplomacy yesterday followed calls Wednesday evening to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun.

"My message was that we want to solve this problem diplomatically, and the best way to solve the problem diplomatically is for all of us to be working in concert," Bush said.

Referring to the North Koreans' broken declaration of a moratorium on missile tests, Bush said the group of nations needed to send a single message to Kim: "that we expect you to adhere to international norms and we expect you to keep your word."

James Gerstenzang and Maggie Farley write for the Los Angeles Times.

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