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Obama: North Korea Must Replace Threats with ‘Meaningful Steps’

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 – President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye agreed during a joint press conference here today that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government in Pyongyang must stop provocations and pursue a peaceful path if North Korea is ever to emerge from its stark position of isolation among the world’s nations.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea, in the Oval Office, May 7, 2013. White House photo by Pete Souza
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Obama welcomed Park, who took office in February as South Korea’s first woman president, and praised her firm leadership stand against the threats emanating from her northern neighbor.

“If Pyongyang thought its recent threats would drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States or somehow garner the North international respect, today is further evidence that North Korea has failed again,” Obama said.

The United States and the Republic of Korea are as united as ever, and will maintain their military and economic engagement as their 60-year-old alliance continues to grow, the president said.

“Our two nations are prepared to engage with North Korea diplomatically and over time build trust,” he added. “But, as always, and as President Park has made clear, the burden is on Pyongyang to take meaningful steps to abide by its commitments and obligations, particularly the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

He and Park noted in discussions today, Obama said, that Pyongyang should note events in countries like Burma, which, as it reforms, “is seeing more trade and investment and diplomatic ties with the world, including the United States and South Korea.”

Park, speaking through an interpreter, thanked Obama for his hospitality and said she found that she and Obama share a broad, common view of their two nations’ commitments. The two leaders today issued a joint declaration on the 60th anniversary of the alliance.

Park said she and Obama agreed that, “The Korea-U.S. alliance has been faithfully carrying out its role as a bulwark of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia, and that the alliance should continue to serve as a linchpin for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Asia.”

They also agreed, she said, “That we will by no means tolerate North Korea's threats and provocations, which have recently been escalating further, and that such actions would only deepen North Korea's isolation.”

Park repeated what she called a clear message to Pyongyang.

“North Korea will not be able to survive if it only clings to developing its nuclear weapons at the expense of its people's happiness,” she said. “Concurrently pursuing nuclear arsenals and economic development can by no means succeed.”

She also spoke out against the North Korea’s recent closing of the joint industrial zone of Kaesong, where both North and South Korean companies had pursued joint ventures aimed at expanding North Korea’s economic base. South Korean companies had invested in the effort and formed agreements for the venture, she said, and then found themselves abruptly shut out when North Korea withdrew from Kaesong.

“This situation unfolded in the full view of the international community,” Park said. “So, who would invest … in North Korea, in a place that shows such flagrant disregard for agreements?”

U.S. and South Korean leaders, along with Japan, China, Russia and other countries, will keep strongly urging North Korea “to faithfully abide by its international obligations under the September 19th joint statements and the relevant [U.N.] Security Council resolutions,” she said.

Should North Korea choose the path to becoming a responsible member of the community of nations, Park said, “We are willing to provide assistance together with the international community.”

Obama said the United States will continue to coordinate closely with South Korea and Japan to defend against threats on the peninsula and in the region.

“And I want to make clear the United States is fully prepared and capable of defending ourselves and our allies with the full range of capabilities available, including the deterrence provided by our conventional and nuclear forces,” he said.

Obama pledged his ongoing commitment to alliance with South Korea.

“As I said in Seoul last year, the commitment of the United States to the security of the Republic of Korea will never waver,” Obama said.

 

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