Washington, D.C. - President Bush called Wednesday for stiff sanctions on North Korea for its reported nuclear test and asserted that the United States has "no intention of attacking" the reclusive regime.
In a Rose Garden news conference, Bush said the United States remains committed to diplomacy, but also "reserves all options to defend our friends in the region."
He also vowed increased military cooperation with allies, including bolstering ballistic missile defenses in the region and increased efforts to prevent Pyongyang from importing missile and nuclear technology.
As Bush spoke, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the United States to hold one-on-one talks with North Korea, something the U.S. has refused to do.
Bush rejected criticism from Democrats that his administration had not paid enough attention to the brewing North Korean nuclear crisis, saying that Pyongyang had turned its back on a 1994 deal negotiated by the Clinton administration.
"It is the intransigence of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, that led to the current situation, he said.
On Iraq, Bush acknowledged "tough times" in the wartorn country where sectarian violence has surged recently. But, he added, "It is in our interests that Iraq succeed."
Bush staunchly defended his Iraq policy, saying that he had adjusted tactics to reflect changing conditions on the ground.
He was asked about a recent comment by the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner, that Iraq was drifting "sideways" and that the U.S. should consider major changes if Baghdad doesn't get the violence under control within the next few months.
"I appreciate Sen. Warner from going over there and taking a look," said Bush. "I completely agree."
Still, he insisted, "We're constantly changing tactics."
As to direct talks with North Korea, as the U.N. secretary general and many other diplomats have urged, Bush suggested that direct Clinton administration contacts with the communist regime showed they were unprofitable.
"It didn't work in the past. ... I learned a lesson from that. You have a better diplomatic hand with others sending the message," Bush said. He supports a resumption of six-way talks among North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States.