Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obama urges N. Korea to abandon nuke weapons, seek improved ties with U.S.

 via Yonhap NA, Seoul, Korea

U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and refrain from provocations so it could enhance ties with the U.S. that would lead the impoverished communist state to prosperity.

"If they choose to fulfill their international obligations and commitments to the international community, they will have the chance to offer their people lives of growing opportunity instead of crushing poverty -- a future of greater security and greater respect; a future that includes the prosperity and opportunity available to citizens on this end of the Korean Peninsula," Obama said in a speech to U.S. soldiers at Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul.

About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. More than 360,000 American soldiers were killed in the war.

Obama flew into Seoul late Wednesday to attend the summit of leaders of the world's 20 major economies for discussion on ways for sustainable recovery from the worst recession in decades that hit the global economy in late 2008.

Obama was to have a bilateral summit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak later in the day to discuss the resumption of the six-party talks and the ratification of a bilateral free trade deal pending over lopsided auto trade and limited shipments of beef, among others.

The six-party nuclear talks have been stalled over international sanctions on the North for its nuclear and missile tests early last year and most recently North Korea's torpedoing of a South Korean warship.

Seoul and Washington call on Pyongyang to show a commitment to denuclearization and apologize for the Cheonan's sinking that killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea in March. The North denies responsibility for the ship sinking.

Obama warned the North of any further provocations.

"In the wake of this aggression, Pyongyang should not be mistaken: The United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea," he said. "The alliance between our two nations has never been stronger, and along with the rest of the world, we have made it clear that North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will only lead to more isolation and less security."

The U.S. president said his country's participation in the Korean War was a victory, not a tie.

"Because the Korean War ended where it began geographically, some used the phrase 'Die for a Tie' to describe the sacrifice of those who fought here," he said. "But as we look around at this thriving democracy and its grateful, hopeful citizens, one thing is clear: This was no tie. This was a victory. It was a victory then, and it is a victory today."

He took note of the close alliance between Seoul and Washington, "a friendship that was forged in war has become an alliance that has led to greater security and untold progress -- not only in the Republic of Korea, but throughout Asia."

"Today, the Korean Peninsula provides the world's clearest contrast between a society that is open and one that is closed; between a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change," he said, describing South Korea's transition to "one of the fastest-growing, most prosperous democracies in all the world" from "little more than rice paddies and villages."