Mr. Bush also took issue with Mr. Kerry’s argument, in an interview at the end of May with The New York Times, that the Bush administration’s focus on Iraq had given North Korea the opportunity to significantly expand its nuclear capability. Showing none of the alarm about the North’s growing arsenal that he once voiced regularly about Iraq, he opened his palms and shrugged when an interviewer noted that new intelligence reports indicate that the North may now have the fuel to produce six or eight nuclear weapons.
He said that in North Korea’s case, and in Iran’s, he would not be rushed to set deadlines for the countries to disarm, despite his past declaration that he would not “tolerate” nuclear capability in either nation. He declined to define what he meant by “tolerate.”
“I don’t think you give timelines to dictators,” Mr. Bush said, speaking of North Korea’s president, Kim Jong Il, and Iran’s mullahs. He said he would continue diplomatic pressure – using China to pressure the North and Europe to pressure Iran – and gave no hint that his patience was limited or that at some point he might consider pre-emptive military action.
“I’m confident that over time this will work – I certainly hope it does,” he said of the diplomatic approach. Mr. Kerry argued in his interview that North Korea “‘was a far more compelling threat in many ways, and it belonged at the top of the agenda,” but Mr. Bush declined to compare it to Iraq, apart from arguing that Iraq had defied the world community for longer than the other members of what he once called “the axis of evil.” Nor would he assess the risk that Pyongyang might sell nuclear material to terrorists, though his national security aides believe it may have sold raw uranium to Libya in recent years.
David E. Sanger and Elisabeth Bumiller
The New York Times
I guess Saddam wasn’t really a dictator, since he did give Saddam a timeline.