PANMUNJOM, Korea -- President Bush saw the unfulfilled hope of a trans-Korean railway that dead ends in dirt and said his wish is to see the "evil" communist North give its people a better life by reuniting with the free South.
Bush also said the United States has "no intention of attacking North Korea," as he tried Wednesday to assuage the anxiety many peace-seeking South Koreans felt when, in his State of the Union address last month, he provocatively labeled North Korea, Iran and Iraq "an axis of evil."
At a gleaming train station just 200 yards from the hostile Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, Bush expressed a peaceful vision:
"I see a peninsula that is one day united in commerce and cooperation, instead of divided by barbed wire and fear."
As South Korean President Kim Dae-jung showed Bush the dormant Dorasan Station, they could hear the North's propaganda music blaring from unseen guard posts opposite a fence of curled razor wire.
Bush condemned the repression that music symbolized. "Korean children should never starve while a massive army is fed. No nation should be a prison for its own people," he said.
Bush had just come from Observation Post Ouellette, where he peered across razor wire and land mine fields into the North and reiterated his belief that it is "evil."
North Korea fired back, accusing Bush of war mongering. Korean Central Radio, a North Korean government mouthpiece, said the president's address "exposed a reckless plot trying to attack militarily on our side."
About 13 hours before Bush arrived at the hilltop post jointly manned by U.S. and South Korean troops, a North Korean soldier walked into the southern sector of the DMZ under cover of darkness and defected.
In South Korea, hundreds of anti-U.S. activists fought riot police in downtown Seoul after police tried to stop them from burning an American flag. Ambulances took away several injured activists.
The Dorasan Station and railway, a $150 million project completed by the South just this month, goes nowhere because the North's government has not begun construction on its end. The rival states agreed at a June 2000 summit to reconnect their people by rail and highway.
Bush called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to hold up his end of the bargain.
If Koreans could freely cross into the South, Bush said, they "would see not a threat, but a miracle of peaceful development. ... They would see a great and hopeful alternative to stagnation and starvation."
The North has steadily escalated military spending -- deploying more than 1 million troops and tens of thousands of artillery systems and rocket launchers to the "no man's land" of the DMZ -- at the expense of nutrition, health, housing, transportation and other badly needed domestic programs.
Heading into this two-day visit, his first ever to the peninsula, Bush hoped to square his "axis of evil" doctrine with the "sunshine policy" of Kim, who has tried reaching out to North Korea in hopes of easing tensions.
After two hours of morning talks in the majestic Blue House (the South Korean equivalent of the White House), Bush and Kim spoke at a joint news conference.
Bush made a point of explaining why he fingered North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an evil trio. Instead of focusing on their suspected terrorist ties and production of weapons of mass destruction, as he has for weeks, Bush spoke of his concern for quality of life in the North.
"I am troubled by a regime that tolerates starvation ... I am deeply concerned about the people of North Korea," he said.
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