Obama lauds troops at 'freedom's frontier' and warns North Korea
On a trip to South Korea, President Obama visits the heavily-armed DMZ and warns the regime across the border not to test a long-range missile next month.
Seoul, South Korea
President Barack Obama today warned North Korea not to go through with its plan to test a long-range missile next month but was clearly uncertain about what to do about it. His frustration was evident in the vagueness of his threat to hold back on 240,000 tons of food aid promised in a deal reached by US and North Korean envoys on Feb. 29.Skip to next paragraph
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Obama did not say specifically that the US would refuse to provide the food. Rather, he hinted, it would be “difficult to move forward with that package if they showed themselves unable to meet commitments even a month later.”
The view that launching the rocket would be “a clear violation,” as Mr. Obama put it, of the deal in which North Korea declared a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests dominated his meeting with South Korea’s President Lee Myong-bak on the eve of a two-day nuclear security summit of leaders of more than 50 countries.
The summit is about nuclear terrorism and accidents, not the nuclear programs of either North Korea or Iran, which have cooperated with one another in exchanging components and technology. Nonetheless, worries about North Korea were sure to take up most of the time of the leaders outside the formal conference.
The most significant conversation may be that between Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao. Obama made clear he would press hard for Mr. Hu to get tough with North Korea about its plans to fire off the rocket around the time of massive celebrations on April 15 of the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, grandfather of North Korea’s young “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un.
“Rewarding bad behavior, turning a blind eye, trying to paper over provocative acts obviously is not working,” said Obama. He believed China did not “want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon,” but “the question is what the Chinese are doing” to get North Korea to adopt a different approach.
In that spirit, Obama showed his solidarity with President Lee after getting back from a quick visit to the demilitarized zone between the two countries. The visit to the DMZ came as reaffirmation of the US-Korean alliance as well as appreciation of the role of the 28,500 US troops still based in Korea.