President Obama issues warningAfter completing a visit to Japan, U.S. President Barack Obama visits Korea today to have a summit with President Park Geun-hye. This is his fourth visit to Korea since his inauguration in 2009 and his third summit with President Park. Given the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula stemming from signs of another nuclear test being readied by North Korea, both leaders will likely discuss how to reinforce their traditional alliance amid unceasing threats from Pyongyang.
In an exclusive written interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Obama said that if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, it will face a strong reaction from the international community, adding that America will closely cooperate with its allies and partners to build pressure on Pyongyang. He also underscored that a nuclear test by North Korea will only deepen its isolation from the rest of the world. In Thursday’s summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama said that if North Korean leaders want to turn the maverick state into something more normal, they must first change their behavior. Otherwise, the United States can augment pressure on the North to force it onto a different path.
We hope that the two leaders discuss practical ways to prevent a fourth nuclear test and encourage the North to scrap its cherished nuclear programs. Despite the influence Beijing has over Pyongyang, overreliance on China can hardly solve the nuclear knot. Only when concerned parties engage in a step-by-step and comprehensive approach to the issue can we turn back the nuclear clock.
It is encouraging that Obama expressed his commitment to security on the peninsula in our interview. Obama made an unflinching commitment to the defense and security of Korea, which includes the full-fledged military power of America. It is also noticeable that Obama mentioned a need to “modernize the two countries’ alliance,” considering the observation that America will try to fill the military vacuum with a consolidation of the existing alliance and co-sharing of defense responsibilities due to its defense budget cuts.
That suggests more security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, which will inevitably raise our defense costs. The government must have the wisdom to further develop its alliance with the U.S., while not hurting relations with China.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 30