WASHINGTON: US President George W. Bush, in his first ever direct communication to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, urged him to fully disclose his nuclear programs by December 31, US officials said Thursday.The unprecedented personal appeal, in a letter dated December 1, came amid growing worries among Washington and its four diplomatic partners in dealing with the secretive regime that the effort will slip into next year. "Dear Mister Chairman…" Bush wrote Kim on White House stationery, warning that efforts to dismantle Pyongyang’s atomic activities stood at a "critical juncture," said White House spokesoman Dana Perino. His firmly worded message was that "it is up to you, North Korea, to make a complete and accurate declaration. And if you don’t, we will know that you’re not" honoring the agreed aims on the issue, said Perino, who added that Bush hand-signed the letter.
The US president also sent letters to the leaders of China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, fellow participants in the six-country negotiations aimed at ending the nuclear standoff with North Korea, said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "In these letters, the president reiterated our commitment to the six-party talks and stressed the need for North Korea to come forward with a full and complete declaration of their nuclear programs, as called for in the September 2005 six-party agreement" said Johndroe. The US special envoy for North Korea, Christopher Hill, told reporters in Beijing that "we felt we were at a crucial moment and it was important to reach out to all the parties and that’s what the president did." Hill praised Pyongyang’s "excellent" cooperation on the disabling of its atomic activities, saying the process was "really moving ahead" and insisting that "anyone who has seen it can see that it is on schedule." Hill delivered Bush’s letter to North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun this week, a news agency based in North Korea said Thursday in a three-line dispatch which gave no further details. Asked whether the missive was driven by confidence that North Korea would meet the deadline or concern that it would not, Perino demurred: "I would not characterize it as either, I would characterize it as timely." A South Korean official said later that a key problem is the North’s refusal to address its suspected highly enriched uranium weapons (HEU) program to US satisfaction.