Stephanopoulos noted that after last week's latest nuclear missile test out of North Korea, the president referred to the country as a "grave threat," a phrase Bush has used only once during his six years in office, in reference to Iraq before the U.S. invasion of that country. He asked the president what he means by that phrase now.
"Well, time they find out, George," Bush said. "One of the things that's important for these world leaders to hear is, you know, we will use means necessary to hold them to account.
"If we get intelligence that they're about to transfer a nuclear weapon, we would stop the transfer, and we would deal with the ships that were taking the -- or the airplane that was dealing with taking the material to somebody," he said.
"My point is that I want the leader to understand -- the leader of North Korea to understand that he'll be held to account," Bush said. "Just like he's being held to account now for having run a test."
Bush also suggested that China may be more committed to the recent round of U.N. sanctions than it has let on in public statements.
"I'm getting a little different picture from Condi [Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice]," he said. "They don't particularly want to board ships. But, on the other hand, if there's good intelligence, they'll work with us on that intelligence. They're inspecting cargoes coming across their border."
He insisted China was not "half committed" to the sanctions.
Moving away from the controversial issues likely to play a critical role in the 2006 midterms, Stephanopoulos asked the two-term incumbent which personal quality is going to be important for the next president.
"Determination and compassion," Bush said. When asked what advice he might have for his successor, Bush told ABC News, "Stand on principle."
Tune in to "Nightline," "Good Morning America" and "This Week," and check back at www.abcnews.com for more of George Stephanopoulos' one-on-one interview with President Bush.