The heads of several U.S. church bodies have signed a statement commending the Bush administration for its successful diplomatic efforts towards the denuclearization of North Korea.
The United Nations confirmed Wednesday that the secluded communist country had closed all five of its major nuclear facilities. The announcement came from North Korea early on Monday as the six-party nations gathered in Beijing to discuss the country's nuclear weapons program.
The denuclearization agreement reached with North Korea was "an important step toward halting the production of nuclear bomb material in that nation" and enhancing international security, the church leaders said in the statement.
"The agreement with North Korea demonstrates the value of diplomacy in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons," the statement added. "It validates the preferential use of words, rather than war, as a response to conflict.
"Our religious traditions teach that efforts should be made to explore every alternative in resolving a conflict before going to war."
The church leaders went on to urge the Bush administration to pursue a similar diplomatic strategy with Iran by engage in direct negotiations to halt the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Among the church leaders who signed the statement were the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the USA; Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church; the Most. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, executive director of the Alliance of Baptists.