Q Thank you, sir. Some experts say North Korea may be launching missiles to attract more concessions. Are you prepared to offer any more concessions beyond that already offered in the six-party format? And have you ruled out the possible military option in responding to them?But not when you are trying to generate a "central front in the war on terror." I'm not buying this shit any more, are you folks?
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, we want to solve all problems diplomatically. That's our first choice.
Sure you can say you are going to complete the mission, but can you and is it worth the cost? What, by the way, is "the mission" in the "war on terror?" Any one have a guess?
I spend a lot of time worrying about the war on terror. I think about it every single day. My biggest job, frankly, is to protect the American people, and this is a dangerous world and there are people out there lurking who are trying to figure out ways to hurt us. I know some dismiss that as empty rhetoric; I'm just telling you it's the truth. And therefore, we're doing a lot of stuff in Washington. We're reforming our intelligence services to be able to react better. The FBI is now focusing on counter-terrorist activities. The CIA is developing more human intelligence, which will make it easier to be able to do our duty.Later on in the press conference another reporter tries to nail W down and he squirms out of it again:
We're also on the offense against the terrorists. We'll keep the pressure on them. We'll bring them to justice before they hurt our people.
The central front in the war on terror is Iraq. And I know Iraq is on the minds of a lot of people here in Chicago. It's hard work. It's hard work because we face an enemy that will keep innocent people in order to achieve an objective, and their objective is to drive us out of Iraq so they can have safe haven from which to launch attacks against modern Muslim nations, so they can spread their ideology of hate. They want us to -- they believe capitalist societies and democracies are inherently weak. They do not believe that we've got the capacity to do the hard work necessary to help the Iraqis succeed.
And they're mistaken. They're just wrong. Success in Iraq is vital for the security of the United States, and success in Iraq is vital for long-term peace. And so, therefore, we'll complete the mission.
Q Mr. President, a lot of people here in Chicago tell us that they see an incongruity in your foreign policy. We're involved in a shooting war in Iraq; yet we have a leader in North Korea who has announced his affection for nuclear weapons and no hesitation to use them against the United States. Is your policy consistent between the way you have dealt with Iraq and the way you have dealt with North Korea? And if so, are we headed toward a military action in North Korea? And if so, can this nation sustain military action on three fronts -- Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea?But really, if it takes time to do things diplomatically, what has the W, Rove and Co accomplished in four years since W proclaimed North Korea as a member of the Axis of Evil? Watch W get all tangled up here:
THE PRESIDENT: I have always said that it's important for an American President to exhaust all diplomatic avenues before the use of force. Committing our troops into harm's way is a difficult decision. It's the toughest decision a President will ever make. And I fully understand the consequences of doing so.
All diplomatic options were exhausted, as far as I was concerned, with Saddam Hussein. Remember that the U.N. Security Council resolution that we passed when I was the President was one of 16, I think -- 16, 17? Give me a hand here. More than 15. (Laughter.) Resolution after resolution after resolution saying the same thing, and he ignored them. And we tried diplomacy. We went to the U.N. Security Council -- 15-to-nothing vote that said, disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.
I happen to believe that when you say something you better mean it. And so when we signed on to that resolution that said, disclose, disarm or face serious consequences, I meant what we said. That's one way you keep the peace: You speak clearly and you mean what you say.
And so the choice was Saddam Hussein's choice. He could have not fooled the inspectors. He could have welcomed the world in. He could have told us what was going on. But he didn't. And so we moved.
And we're in the diplomatic process now with North Korea; that's what you're seeing happening. Remember, remember, we put a coalition together at the United Nations that said, disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. It was 15 to nothing. It wasn't a U.S., 1 to 14. It was 15 to nothing; other nations stood up and said the same thing we said.
So we're now working the diplomacy, and you're watching the diplomacy work, not only in North Korea, but in Iran. It's kind of painful in a way for some to watch because it takes a while to get people on the same page. Everybody -- not everybody thinks the exact same way we think. There are different -- words mean different things to different people, and the diplomatic process can be slow and cumbersome. This is why this is probably the fourth day in a row I've been asked about North Korea -- it's slow and cumbersome. Things just don't happen overnight.
But what you're watching is a diplomatic response to a person who, since 1994, has said they're not going to -- he's not going to have a weapon.
Q Do you believe the United States --
THE PRESIDENT: I don't accept that hypothetical question. You're asking me a hypothetical. What I believe is we can solve the problem diplomatically.
Q Mr. President, if I could follow up, you say diplomacy takes time --Ah Ha, the truth slips out. I love W unscripted. It's when he tends to be more honest, if that's possible for a man who is living a perpetual lie (re: Y2K elections that he stole rather than won).
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it does.
Q -- but it was four years ago that you labeled North Korea a member of the "axis of evil." And since then it's increased its nuclear arsenal, it's abandoned six-party talks and now these missile launches --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you a question. It's increased it's -- that's an interesting statement: "North Korea has increased its nuclear arsenal." Can you verify that?
Q Well, intelligence sources say -- if you can -- if you'd like to dispute that, that's fine.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not going to dispute, I'm just curious.
Q Our intelligence sources say that it's increased the number -- its nuclear capability --
THE PRESIDENT: -- dangerous -- it has potential danger.
Q It's increased is nuclear capabilities. It's abandoned six-party talks, and it's launched these missiles.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Why shouldn't Americans see the U.S. policy regarding North Korea as a failed one?
THE PRESIDENT: Because it takes time to get things done.
Q What objective has the U.S. government achieved when it comes to North Korea? And why does the administration continue to go back to the same platform process if it's not effective in changing North Korea's behavior? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Suzanne, these problems didn't arise overnight, and they don't get solved overnight. It takes a while. Again, I think if you look at the history of the North Korean weapons program, it started probably in the '80s. We don't know -- maybe you know more than I do -- about increasing the number of nuclear weapons. My view is we ought to treat North Korea as a danger, take them seriously. No question that he has signed agreements and didn't stick by them. But that was done during -- when we had bilateral negotiations with him, and it's done during the six-party talks.
You've asked what we've done. We've created a framework that will be successful. I don't -- 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. In order to be successful diplomatically, it's best to have other partners at the table. You ask what we've done. We got the six-party talks started. And that's a positive development. It's a way to solve this problem diplomatically.
Q Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: I just thought for a minute you might have known more than I do about -- when you say, definitively say he's increased the number of weapons. I don't think we know that.
Q Maybe you know, but you're not telling.
THE PRESIDENT: That's an option. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, you said some time ago that --
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe I don't know and don't want to tell you I don't know. Anyway. (Laughter.)