Q : Do you feel that the number of troops that you've kept there is limiting your options elsewhere in the world? Just today you had the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency say that he was now concerned that the North Koreans, for example, could put a weapon, a nuclear weapon on a missile that could reach Japan or beyond. Do you feel, as you are confronting these problems, the number of troops you've left tied up in Iraq is limiting your options to go beyond the diplomatic solutions that you described for North Korea and Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that question. The person to ask that to, the person I ask that to, at least, is to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, my top military advisor. I say, do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq? And the answer is, no, he doesn't feel we're limited. He feels like we've got plenty of capacity.

You mentioned the Korean Peninsula. We've got good capacity in Korea. We traded troops for new equipment, as you know; we brought some troop -- our troop levels down in South Korea, but replaced those troops with more capacity. Let me talk about North Korea, if you don't mind. Is that your question?

Q Go right ahead. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised you didn't ask it. (Laughter.)

Look, Kim Jong-il is a dangerous person. He's as man who starves his people. He's got huge concentration camps. And, as David accurately noted, there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon. We don't know if he can or not, but I think it's best when you're dealing with a tyrant like Kim Jong-il to assume he can.

That's why I've decided that the best way to deal with this diplomatically is to bring more leverage to the situation by including other countries. It used to be that it was just America dealing with North Korea. And when Kim Jong-il would make a move that would scare people, everybody would say, America, go fix it. I felt it -- it didn't work. In other words, the bilateral approach didn't work. The man said he was going to do something and he didn't do it, for starters.

So I felt a better approach would be to include people in the neighborhood, into a consortium to deal with him. And it's particularly important to have China involved. China has got a lot of influence in North Korea. We went down to Crawford with Jiang Zemin, and it was there that Jiang Zemin and I issued a statement saying that we would work for a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.

And so when Kim Jong-il announced the other day about his nuclear intentions and weapons, it certainly caught the attention of the Chinese because they had laid out a policy that was contradicted by Kim Jong-il, and it's helpful to have the Chinese leadership now involved with him. It's more -- it's better to have more than one voice sending the same message to Kim Jong-il. The best way to deal with this issue diplomatically is to have five other -- four other nations beside ourselves dealing with him. And we'll continue to do so.

Finally, as you know, I have instructed Secretary Rumsfeld -- and I work with Congress -- Secretary Rumsfeld has worked with Congress to set up a missile defense system. And we're in the process of getting that missile defense system up and running. One of the reasons why I thought it was important to have a missile defense system is for precisely the reason that you brought up, that perhaps Kim Jong-il has got the capacity to launch a weapon, and wouldn't it be nice to be able to shoot it down. And so we've got a comprehensive strategy in dealing with him.