Bush Seeks to Pressure North Korea

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush discussed with China ways of putting "greater pressure" on North Korea after the reclusive communist state acknowledged for the first time Thursday that it had launched several missiles.

In a flurry of diplomacy as the UN Security Council debated possible sanctions against North Korea, Bush talked by telephone to Chinese President Hu Jintao, the White House said.

Bush spoke by telephone Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and stressed the need for a unified response to North Korea's missile launches.

A defiant North Korea vowed more tests and threatened to use force if the international community tried to stop it.

China, grappling with pressure from Washington over North Korea's missile tests, said its top negotiator on the North Korean nuclear crisis would visit Pyongyang next week.

China's Hu told Bush he opposed "anything that would threaten peace and stability" on the Korean peninsula, the White House said.

"The KPA [Korean People's Army] will go on with missile-launch exercises as part of its efforts to bolster deterrent for self-defense in the future," North Korea's official KCNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

Officials say North Korea launched at least six missiles from its eastern coast early Wednesday and, as the international community fumed, it fired off a seventh some 12 hours later.

The missiles included a long-range Taepodong-2, which some experts had said could hit Alaska. U.S. officials said it flew for less than a minute and splashed into the sea west of Japan.

Japan's Koizumi and Bush agreed by phone to work together for a UN resolution demanding that nations halt funds and technology that could be used for Pyongyang's missile program.

Their call, reported by Japan's Kyodo news agency, came after Russia and China opposed slapping sanctions on North Korea, echoing the split among the UN Security Council's veto-wielding members over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that sanctions against North Korea would be counterproductive now.

"Trying to talk straight away about the threat of sanctions leads to reciprocal threats from North Korea, as has happened several times before. And then you still have to return to negotiations, only then it will be in a more tense atmosphere," he told reporters.

Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Losyukov told reporters in Tokyo that sanctions could prevent a revival of the six-country talks on Pyongyang's nuclear arms program, which have been stalled since last November.

China's top negotiator on the North Korean nuclear crisis, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, will accompany Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on a visit to Pyongyang next week, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.