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At summit, Bush wins support for pressuring N. Korea

HANOI -- Lobbying world leaders, President Bush lined up support yesterday for pressuring long-defiant North Korea to prove it is serious about dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Bush used a summit of Pacific Rim countries to consult individually with leaders of the four other nations engaged with North Korea in nuclear disarmament talks, stalled for more than a year but now on the verge of resumption. Those talks were expected to win endorsement today from all 21 participants in the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Nearly two weeks after election losses weakened his presidency, Bush faced questions from summit partners about the Democratic takeover of Congress and the message of disapproval about the Iraq war.

"He, of course, reassured them that, in terms of the foreign policy of the country, he was firm in his views and would be continuing that foreign policy along current lines," said national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

Bush explored North Korea strategy with Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, a hard-liner toward Pyongyang, and with President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea, who has reservations about the US approach.

Bush said he felt that he and Abe "saw eye-to-eye" on North Korea, Hadley said. He also tried to play down differences with South Korea.

Bush is seeking advice today from the leaders of China and Russia.

In their meetings so far, Bush and US diplomats have been downplaying possible retribution against Pyongyang and highlighting the incentives they are dangling -- from economic cooperation to a formal end to the Korean War -- if the reclusive government gives up its nuclear weapons programs.

"We want the North Korean leaders to hear that if it gives up its weapons -- nuclear weapons ambitions -- that we would be willing to enter into security arrangements with the North Koreans as well as move forward new economic incentives for the North Korean people," Bush said as he met Roh.

In Vietnam, a communist country, Bush was making a pointed effort to encourage religious tolerance. He and his wife, Laura, were to attend services today at Cua Bac Church, a concrete basilica built by the French more than a century ago. They were to join about 500 worshippers, split between Catholics and Protestants.

Between meetings, Bush strolled through a red-tiled courtyard at the US military's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command here, charged with recovering and identifying the remains of Americans killed in action in Vietnam but never brought home.

Making no comment and asking no questions of his guides, Bush peered briefly at photos of recovery teams in the field and tables of recovered items, such as a dented helmet, rusty rifles, even plaster moldings of bones.

Afterward, Bush returned to nuclear diplomacy. He was to meet with President Hu Jintao of China, whose country exerts more influence on North Korea than any other. The two leaders also were expected to discuss rising trade tensions between their countries and US concerns about China's big military budget.

He also was to discuss the issue with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. While the two have sharp differences, they are celebrating an agreement that would pave the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization.

China and Russia support UN sanctions against North Korea for conducting a nuclear test Oct. 9 in defiance of world appeals. But Washington is worried that support for carrying out the sanctions might be weakened by North Korea's declaration that it is willing to return to the stalled disarmament talks.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, who stressed that the world must act firmly but "extremely cautiously" in its approach to the North Korean nuclear program, said the summit statement to be issued today would not go beyond -- and would in fact repeat -- the recent UN Security Council resolution.

Aside from church, Bush has had virtually no public appearances in Vietnam or contact with locals. Hadley said the president was getting a feel for the country by watching people from the windows of his armored limousine.

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