Obama, Lee issue ‘stern, united’ warning to N. Korea

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LONDON — President Obama joined South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the G-20 economic summit Thursday in calling for a “stern, united” world response if North Korea proceeds with plans to launch a long-range rocket.

The statement came as world leaders gather in London to thrash out a solution to the worst financial crisis in decades and amid news reports that North Korea has begun fueling a long-range rocket in preparation for launch.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Lee met in the morning, before the world leaders settled down to negotiate a deal on how to rescue the global economy.

“They agreed on the need for a stern, united response from the international community if North Korea launches a long-range rocket, and to work together in the course of that,” according to a statement from the South Korean government.

North Korea claims it will send a communications satellite into space between April 4 and 8. The United States and its allies say the plan is a cover for testing long-range missile technology.

President Obama repeated his goal of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and that North Korea would not undermine U.S.-South Korea relationships, a White House official told reporters.

“There was a striking unanimity of views” on the missile issue, the official said. “I saw no daylight between the two.”

The official also said the U.S. expects the launch to happen despite the efforts by countries involved in the Six-Party Talks and would not comment on whether intelligence reports show South Korea is indeed fueling the rocket. “The general expectation is that this launch is going to proceed. But we have been making maximum efforts to try to dissuade them, and still hope that they may change their minds,” the official said.

Mr. Lee accepted Mr. Obama’s invitation to visit Washington on June 16.

The two leaders also agreed to work closely on strong measures to stimulate their economies and build international consensus on reform of the international regulatory and supervisory system.

They stressed the importance of avoiding protectionism and economic nationalism. President Obama expressed his strong commitment to the U.S.-ROK alliance, which is essential to maintain peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and pledged continued cooperation in the ongoing joint efforts to strengthen the alliance further.

The two presidents agreed that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement could bring benefits to both countries and they committed to working together on that effort. Both leaders share a vision for broadening and modernizing the Alliance to address the challenges of the 21st Century and they decided to explore ideas for increasing regional and global cooperation at their meeting in June.

They urged North Korea to abide by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and agreed on the need for a unified response by the international community in the event that North Korea launches a long-range missile.

President Obama expressed appreciation for South Korea’s contributions and support for the international effort to promote stability and assistance in reconstruction of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. They promised also to continue to find ways to cooperate in addressing global challenges such as climate change and clean energy technologies.

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