Republic of Korea, U.S. United on North Korea Policy, Obama Says

President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye leave the stage after their news conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on April 25.
President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye leave the stage after their news conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on April 25.

By Jane Morse
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
25 April 2014

The United States and the Republic of Korea “stand shoulder-to-shoulder” both in the face of North Korea’s provocations and in both nations’ refusal to accept a nuclear North Korea, says President Obama.

North Korea has recently threatened additional nuclear tests, a move that “will get North Korea nothing other than greater isolation,” Obama said.

Obama is in Seoul, Republic of Korea, April 25–26 for talks with President Park Geun-hye and military officials. Discussions are focused on the U.S.–Republic of Korea security alliance and trade relations.

During a joint press briefing with President Park April 25, Obama said the Republic of Korea and the United States are “united on the steps Pyongyang needs to take, including abandoning their nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons programs and living up to their international obligations.”

Obama expressed concern for the people of North Korea, who are among the most isolated in the world. The United States, Obama said, is “deeply concerned about the suffering of the North Korean people, and the United States and South Korea are working together to advance accountability for the serious human rights violations being committed by the North.”

There is no “magic bullet” for ending North Korea’s intransigence, Obama said.“What we’re going to have to do is to continue with a consistent, steady approach,” he said. “And the single most important thing is making sure that there’s strong unity of effort between ourselves, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other like-minded countries in the region. We have to present a strong, forceful alliance and we have to prepare for any eventuality while still opening the prospect for a negotiated resolution to this long-standing conflict.”

“America’s commitment to the South Korean people will never waver,” Obama said. He thanked Park for her “strong personal commitment” to the U.S.-Republic of Korea military alliance, which he said will continue to modernize for increased interoperability of missile defense systems. “President Park recommended, and I agreed, that given the evolving security environment in the region, including the enduring North Korea nuclear and missile threat, we can reconsider the 2015 timeline for transferring operational control for our alliance” from U.S. to Republic of Korea control, he added. “Together we’ll ensure that our alliance remains fully prepared for our mission.”

Obama said the free trade agreement signed by the United States and the Republic of Korea two years ago has increased overall bilateral trade, which he said supports good jobs in both countries. Both sides are exploring ways to continue expanding their “extraordinary economic ties,” he said.

Obama is in the Republic of Korea for his fourth visit and as part of his commitment to “rebalancing” U.S. relations with the Asia-Pacific region. He has already visited Japan on this weeklong tour of the region and will head next for Malaysia and the Philippines.