- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

STRASBOURG, France | President Obama on Friday called on North Korea not to launch a ballistic missile in the next few days and warned that the United States would respond to a launch by leading an international movement to penalize the country.

“We have made very clear to the North Koreans that their missile launch is provocative,” Mr. Obama said after meeting here with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “They should stop the launch.”

The president also said Pyongyang, in responding to previous warnings, “has resorted to the sort of language that has led to North Korea’s isolation in the international community for a very long time.”

North Korea said preparations to launch a communications satellite into space were complete Saturday morning, and liftoff was imminent, the Associated Press reported.

Spy satellites trained high-resolution cameras on a coastal launch pad for a launch the North earlier advised international authorities would take place sometime between Saturday and Wednesday.

Mr. Obama said that if the regime of Kim Jong-il launches the rocket, which could be used to deliver a nuclear warhead, the U.S. will “work with all interested parties in the international community to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it can’t threaten the safety and the security of other countries with impunity.”

One day after a mostly positive meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in London, Mr. Obama was more vocal in criticizing the Kremlin.

Mr. Obama called himself a “critic” of Russia’s invasion last summer of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, and said there has not been “a stabilization of that situation.”

“I think we need to send a very clear message to Russia that we want to work with them, but we can’t go back to the old way of doing business,” he said, linking talks with Russia to the effort to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“All have an interest in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Mr. Obama, who is attending NATO’s 60th anniversary summit, also said he would like to “see Europe have much more robust defense capabilities.”

“We’re not looking to be the patron of Europe. We’re looking to be partners. … The more capable they are defensively, the more we can act in concert on the shared challenges that we face,” Mr. Obama said.

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