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Clinton's protocol missteps, A6.Declaring that "no specter hangs over this peninsula or this region more darkly" than North Korea's nuclear weapons project, President Clinton on Saturday stepped up pressure on the communist government to abandon the program.

His aides suggested that the United States and South Korea would move swiftly for economic sanctions from the United Nations if North Korea failed to back down in negotiations in coming weeks.Arriving here after the close of the summit meeting of the seven leading industrial democracies in Tokyo, Clinton assured South Korea's anxious leaders that "our troops will stay here as long as the Korean people want and need us." Sharpening his own oratory, South Korea's new president, Kim Young-sam, said as Clinton stood next to him that the international community may soon have to take "appropriate countermeasures" to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Speaking to the Korean National Assembly in what the White House termed his first major address on Asian security and nuclear non-proliferation, Clinton insisted that the only way to deter regional aggression from powers like North Korea and continue Asia's economic growth is for the United States to remain "an active presence."

"To some in America there is a fear that America's global leadership is an outdated luxury we can no longer afford," said Clinton, clearly tired after four days of trade negotiations and the Group of 7 summit sessions in Tokyo. "Well, they are wrong. In truth, our global leadership has never been a more indispensable or a more worthwhile investment for us."

His comments seemed an oblique reference to conflicts within his administration about the proper scope of American influence around the world in the Cold War's aftermath.

The biggest U.S. reduction in Asia so far came with the closing of the huge air and naval bases in the Philippines last year.

American officials argue that those reductions did not signal any lessening commitment to the region because the bases were closed at the insistence of the Philippine government itself, which had demanded a tremendous increase in the rent paid by the United States. The decision to close the air base was also speeded by the eruption of a volcano that buried it in ash.