Page last updated at 21:24 GMT, Saturday, 19 April 2008 22:24 UK

US and S Korea hopeful on N Korea

Lee Myung-bak (left) and George W Bush at Camp David - 19/4/2008
The two presidents said patience was needed in dealing with North Korea

The US and South Korean presidents have said they are still hopeful progress can be made in eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

George W Bush and Lee Myung-bak have held two days of talks during the South Korean president's first overseas visit since he took office in February.

The two said it was important to see what North Korea said in a required declaration of its nuclear programme.

In a landmark deal, North Korea agreed last year to close a plutonium reactor.

In return, North Korea was promised shipments of fuel oil.

But the secretive state failed to meet a December deadline to make a full declaration of its uranium enrichment programme as well as alleged proliferation activities.

The agreement was reached in six-party talks that also included China, Japan and Russia.

'Difficult, not impossible'

"We need persistent patience, ladies and gentlemen," Mr Lee said during a news conference with Mr Bush at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington.

"It's difficult to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programmes, but it is not impossible."

Mr Bush said it was possible North Korea was stalling in meeting its obligations under the six-party agreement, but he too preached the virtues of patience in dealing with the North Koreans.

"We've yet to come to the stage where he [North Korean leader Kim Jong-il] has made a full declaration.

"And so we'll wait and see what he says and then we'll make a decision about our obligations depending upon whether or not we're convinced that there is a solid and full declaration, and whether or not there is a way to verify whether or not he's going to do what he says he's going to do."

Mr Bush said the US was not rolling back its demands on North Korea, but the priority was to get a declaration that could be verified.

The US president used the joint news conference to press congress to approve a free trade agreement with South Korea.

The Democrats who control the House of Representatives and the Senate have said they are concerned the agreement does not provide the US with adequate access to the Korean automobile market.

Mr Lee announced that Mr Bush had agreed to visit South Korea later this year.

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