Obama urges North to alter ‘provocative behavior’

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Obama urges North to alter ‘provocative behavior’

Washington and Seoul returned to a more hard-line stance after tepid results in opening Pyongyang up to dialogue, and U.S. President Barack Obama said that North Korea has to make changes in its “provocative behavior” in order to engage in talks with the U.S., South Korea and other allies.

President Park Geun-hye likewise urged for an end to the “vicious cycle” of rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior with providing aid and holding talks in a meeting with foreign diplomats in Seoul yesterday.

“You don’t get to bang your spoon on the table and somehow get your way,” Obama said regarding the North’s leader Kim Jong-un’s behavior in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday, adding the U.S. will not “reward this kind of provocative behavior.”

He said he anticipates that North Korea will “make more provocative moves” over the next several weeks. “But our hope is that we can contain [the situation with the North] and that we can move into a different phase in which they try to work through diplomatically some of these issues,” he added, and one where North Korea is capable of “actually feeding their people.”

But because of the North’s unpredictability, Obama said the U.S. repositioned missile defense systems “to guard against any miscalculation on their part” though he said he doubts the North had the ability to deliver miniaturized nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.

Previously, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in his Korea-Japan-China tour last week emphasized that the United States is open to returning to dialogue with the North.

In Tokyo on Sunday, the last leg of his first Northeast Asia tour, Kerry said the U.S. is “prepared to reach out” but needs the “appropriate circumstance.” On Monday, he urged Pyongyang to cap its fiery rhetoric and denuclearize if it wants to hold talks.

In keeping with her double-track policy to build trust with the North, President Park also propositioned to Pyongyang that the South is open to dialogue, an offer which the North shot down Sunday, calling it a “despicable trick.”

Pyongyang then gave an ultimatum on Tuesday demanding an apology for all “hostile acts” against North Korea as a precondition for talks with Seoul and Washington.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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