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In Myanmar, Obama calls for North to forgo nukes

Nov 21,2012
In his speech at Yangon University in Myanmar on Monday, United States President Barack Obama urged the North Korean leadership to give up its nuclear weapons program and walk the path of peace and progress.

“Here in Rangoon [Yangon], I want to send a message across Asia: We don’t need to be defined by the prisons of the past,” Obama said in his speech during his trip to Myanmar, before heading to Cambodia next.

He is the first U.S. president to ever visit Myanmar, which is at present moving toward democracy and openness after pursuing decades of isolation under its military junta.

Obama readdressed what he had said in his 2009 inauguration speech to those governments ruled by fear, and indirectly offered the North to follow the steps of Myanmar and open up.

“I [had] said [in my inauguration speech], ‘We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,’?” Obama said. “And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun [in Myanmar], as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip. .?.?. So today, I’ve come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship.”

He added, “To the leadership of North Korea, I have offered a choice: Let go of your nuclear weapons and choose the path of peace and progress. If you do, you will find an extended hand from the United States of America.”

It was the first time that Obama sent a message to Pyongyang since he was re-elected as president earlier this month. Much attention has been on Obama and his second administration about how the U.S. government will carry out North Korean policies.

Obama’s remarks on the North are seen as sending a message to Pyongyang to start democratic reform, like Myanmar, and Washington will provide economic development support.

On the other hand, if the North continues to conduct missile tests and does not abide by international rules, the Obama administration will not provide food aid and will intensify sanctions.

“What happens here [Myanmar] is so important - not only to this region, but to the world - because you’re taking a journey that has the potential to inspire so many people,” Obama said, also emphasizing the importance of its military promoting professionalism and human rights.

“This [Myanmar] is a test of whether a country [including North Korea] can transition to a better place.”

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]




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