For Immediate Release
President Discusses Iraq and North Korea with Reporters
Office of the Press Secretary
December 31, 2002
The Coffee Station
12:50 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Hi, guys. Happy New Year to everybody. Laura and
I wish all our fellow Americans a prosperous and peaceful and a happy
new year. We are really happy to be spending New Year here in
Crawford, Texas. We'll be having our New Year's hamburger here in a
I'll be glad to answer a few questions -- Ron and Patsy and Mike.
Q Sir, I'd like to ask you if I could, why are you not
considering military action against a defiant, unstable, unpredictable,
nuclear-armed North Korea?
THE PRESIDENT: I view the North Korean situation as one that can
be resolved peacefully, through diplomacy. The international community
-- particularly those countries close to North Korea -- understand the
stakes involved. I had a very good visit with President-elect Roh of
South Korea. I've obviously talked to Jiang Zemin right here in
Crawford about a nuclear weapons-free Peninsula.
There is strong consensus, not only amongst the nations in the
neighborhood and our friends, but also with international
organizations, such as the IAEA, that North Korea ought to comply with
international regulations. I believe this can be done peacefully,
through diplomacy, and we will continue to work that way. I take --
all options, of course, are always on the table for any President, but
by working with these countries we can resolve this.
Q So you're not currently contemplating military action?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Ron, I believe this is not a military
showdown; this is a diplomatic showdown. And we can resolve this
Q Sir, you --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please.
Q Sorry, excuse me.
THE PRESIDENT: And intend to work to resolve it peacefully. We've
got good progress in talking to our friends. And I look forward to the
fact that President-elect Roh is sending some people over here and then
he, himself, will come after he's been inaugurated.
Patsy, then John.
Q Sir, why should we be more worried about Saddam Hussein, who
has no nuclear weapons, than Kim Chong-il, who is unstable and does
have nuclear weapons?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it's important to
remember that Saddam Hussein was close to having a nuclear weapon. We
don't know whether or not he has a nuclear weapon. We do expect him to
disarm his weapons of mass destruction, that's what we expect.
Secondly, the international community has been trying to resolve
the situation in Iraq through diplomacy for 11 years. And for 11
years, Saddam Hussein has defied the international community. And now
we've brought the world together to send a clear signal: we expect him
to disarm, to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction. The first
step in determining whether or not he will do that was discouraging.
His declaration was short. And the international community recognized
that, that he wasn't forthcoming.
Again, I hope this Iraq situation will be resolved peacefully. One
of my New Year's resolutions is to work to deal with these situations
in a way so that they're resolved peacefully. But thus far, it appears
that, first look, that Saddam Hussein hasn't heard the message.
Q Sir, can I ask a follow-up?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Your budget directors put the possible cost of a war with
Iraq at in line with the first Gulf War. Why shouldn't Americans view
this possible war as possibly crippling our economy, that's already
THE PRESIDENT: Well, an attack from Saddam Hussein or a surrogate
of Saddam Hussein would cripple our economy. My biggest job and most
important job is to protect the security of the American people, and I
am going to do that. And I had made the case and will continue to make
the case that Saddam Hussein -- a Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass
destruction is a threat to the security of the American people.
Q But can this economy afford to fight a war?
THE PRESIDENT: This economy cannot afford to stand an attack. And
I'm going to protect the American people. The economy is strong, it's
resilient. Obviously, so long as somebody is looking for work, we've
got to continue to make it strong and resilient. My most important job
is to protect America and Americans, and I take that job seriously.
And that's exactly what this administration is going to do.
Q Sir, are you concerned about the report that had five people
have come across the Canadian border illegally? Are you concerned that
there's any -- there are any new threats to the American security right
now, as we go into this new year?
THE PRESIDENT: I have authorized the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the FBI, to put out an all-points bulletin for five
individuals who we believe have been smuggled into the country. We
need to know why they have been smuggled into the country, what they're
doing in the country. And if anybody has any information about the
five, I would hope they would contact their local authorities.
John, we don't have any idea of what their intentions may be, but
we are mindful that there are still some out there who would try to
harm America and harm Americans. And so, therefore, we take every
threat seriously and every piece of evidence seriously. And the
American people need to know there's a lot of good people working hard,
whether it be on New Year's Eve or any other time, to protect the
Mike, you got anything?
Q Yes. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q What effect do you think that --
THE PRESIDENT: That's plenty. No. (Laughter.)
Q What effect do you think that the attention to Senator Lott's
comment has had on the image of the Republican Party across the
country? And what do you plan to do to repair any damage?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think that most people
understand that their Republican Party cares deeply about each
individual, regardless of the color of their skin or their religion.
And I will continue to promote policies that enable the American
individual to achieve his or her dreams. I believe in equal access to
the greatness of America. And this administration is committed to that
and will continue to work toward that goal.
Yes. I'll show you how generous I am. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, looking ahead here, with a possible war with
Iraq looming, North Korea nuclear conflict as well as Osama bin Laden
still at large, is the world safer as we look ahead to 2003?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it's a lot safer today than it was a year ago,
and it's going to be safer after this year than it was this year
because the United States of America will continue to lead a vast
coalition of freedom loving countries to disrupt terrorist activities,
to hold dictators accountable, particularly those who ignore
international norm and international rule. And the American -- this
government will continue lead the world toward more peace. And the
American people need to be mindful of the fact that our government is
committed to peace and committed to freedom.
And we hope to resolve all the situations in which we find
ourselves in a peaceful way. And so that's my commitment, to try to do
so peacefully. But I want to remind people that, Saddam Hussein, the
choice is his to make as to whether or not the Iraqi situation is
You said we're headed to war in Iraq -- I don't know why you say
that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets
to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully. We've got a
military presence there to remind Saddam Hussein, however, that when I
say we will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him if he chooses
not to disarm, I mean it. And we will continue to work to resolve the
situation on the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful way.
And it was right here in Crawford, Texas, where I had a meaningful
and good discussions with Jiang Zemin. Heck, it wasn't all that long
ago that a U.S. leader never spoke to the Chinese leader. And right
here in Crawford we had a dialogue where we both committed ourselves to
working in a way to convince Kim Chong-il that it's not in his
country's interests to arm up with nuclear weapons. And I believe that
can be resolved peacefully.
Listen, thank you all. I'm thinking about a little nature walk in
a couple of days. Anybody interested?
Q How far is it, how long is it?
THE PRESIDENT: About four miles. I know you're interested.
Q I have a question for you.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Patsy.
Q Did you keep last year's resolution to eat less
THE PRESIDENT: A matter of fact, it's an interesting question she
asked: did I keep last year's resolution to eat less cheeseburgers.
(Laughter.) And the answer is, yes, to the extent that I'm now
comfortable in having a cheeseburger today. (Laughter.)
I hope you all are enjoying yourself here.
MRS. BUSH: Happy New Year, everybody.
END 12:57 P.M. CST