Lee says Seoul is ready to help Pyongyang if it makes ‘strategic decision’
Leaders of South Korea and the United States urged North Korea to make concrete steps toward denuclearization, reiterating their unchanging stance six months ahead of a meeting of about 50 world leaders on nuclear security in Seoul.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned that North Korea will face “greater pressure and isolation” should it continue nuclear weapons development and hostile actions against South Korea.
“North Korea has yet to take concrete steps toward abandoning its weapons, and continues belligerent actions against the South,” Obama said, addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“If they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.”
Obama added that North Koreans will see greater opportunity if their government abides by international rules and obligations.
Earlier at the U.N. assembly, President Lee Myung-bak gave a keynote speech in which he urged North Korea to break its self-imposed isolation and join the international community by forsaking its nuclear ambitions. He also declared that Seoul is ready to help its impoverished neighbor if it makes the strategic decision.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (Yonhap News)
Lee’s appeal came just hours after a meeting between the nuclear envoys of the two Koreas in Beijing produced no breakthroughs that could help reopen the six-party talks on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.
Officials said the South demanded the North take measures to back up its denuclearization pledge before resuming the six-party talks, but the North reiterated a call for the resumption of the nuclear talks with no strings attached.
“The North Korean nuclear threat poses significant challenges to peace on the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and beyond,” Lee said, adding that South Korea has tried for the past 20 years to end Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and will continue to do so.
“It is my hope to see North Korea enjoy peace and prosperity by becoming a responsible member of the international community. When the DPRK chooses the path to mutual benefit and common prosperity, we will be ready to help in this endeavor along with the international community,” he said.
Lee also called on the international community to step up its fight terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
“The greatest threat of all perhaps emanates from nuclear terrorism. International cooperation is now needed more than ever to prevent nuclear terrorism,” he said, adding that the issue will be a top issue at next year’s Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
Obama, who initiated the largest-ever summit as part of efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons, expressed hope that the second meeting in March will “advance our efforts to lock down all of them.”
“America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons, and the production of fissile material needed to make them,” he added.
“As we meet our obligations, we have strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. To do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them.”
Obama put Iran on par with North Korea as a defiant country.
A senior White House official also said Wednesday the Obama administration champions “real negotiations” with North Korea on denuclearization despite the communist regime’s capricious attitude.
National Security Council Asia director Daniel Russel made the remarks amid media speculation over when and whether Washington will hold another round of high-level meetings with Pyongyang.
“The United States holds the view that real negotiations are necessary to implement both the U.N Security Council resolutions on North Korea’s obligations ― international obligations under that ― and the 2005 joint statement, North Korea’s commitments under that,” he said at a press briefing in New York, Web cast by the Washington Foreign Press Center.
He added that Washington is looking for “some indication, some seriousness of purpose on North Korea’s part” that it is willing to join a “bona fide” negotiating process.
The two Koreas had rare one-on-one denuclearization talks in Bali in July on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum, paving the way for a Pyongyang-Washington meeting in New York.
U.S. officials said they put forward during the New York talks a set of initial steps for the North to take and they are waiting for its reply.
Informed sources said the U.S. demanded the North agree to allow the return of International Atomic Energy Agency monitors to its nuclear facilities, place a moratorium on missile and nuclear testing and abide by inter-Korean deals in place.
By Kim So-hyun and news reports (email@example.com