- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

President Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak said Tuesday the international community would stand firm against the nuclearization of North Korea and said the United States would break the “pattern” of threatening behavior later being rewarded.

“There’s been a pattern in the past where North Korea behaves in a belligerent fashion and then if it waits long enough is then rewarded food stuffs, fuel, [loans] and a whole range of benefits, that’s the pattern they have come to expect,” Mr. Obama said. “We are going to break that pattern.”

Mr. Obama said Russia, China, Japan and South Korea all stand with the United States in denouncing the North Korean missile tests and added the unanimous United Nations sanctions are much tougher than in the past and “signals the degree to which we are serious.”

Mr. Lee said North Korea has long threatened his people and “we have always been very firm and prepared.”

He said the nation will not gain anything by “provoking a crisis.”

“Their past behavior will not stand,” Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Lee said the strong relations between the U.S. and South Korea will prevent North Korea from gaining power.

“North Koreans, when they look at the firm partnership and alliance that we have between our two countries, they will think twice about taking any measures that they will regret,” he said. “This very firm alliance that we have between the United States and Korea is going to prevent anything from happening. And, of course, North Korea may have [-] may wish to do so but, of course, they will not be able to do so.”

It was Mr. Lee who mentioned the two U.S. journalists imprisoned in North Korea, calling for their release “without any conditions.”

Mr. Obama did not discuss the journalists.

Pushed after the press conference wrapped up for a reaction to the disputed elections in Iran, Mr. Obama said he does not want to be seen as “meddling” in the elections.

He repeated his stance from Monday that the peaceful protesters being targeted with violence is “of concern.”

“That is not how governments should interact with their people,” he said. “I hope that the Iranian people will make the right steps in order for them to be able to express their voices.”

“How that plays out is something ultimately for the Iranian people to decide, but I stand strongly with the universal principle that people’s voices should be heard and not suppressed.”

Mr. Obama said he and global partners will “make it clear to North Korea it will not find security or respect through threats or illegal weapons.”

He said he would pursue denuclearization “vigorously.”

“There is another path available to North Korea, a path that leads to peace and economic opportunity … [and we’re] urging the North Koreans to take it,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Lee thanked Mr. Obama for the United States “sacrifice for defending my people,” saying South Koreans have a “greater sense of security” thanks to America. He also invited the new U.S. president, who was hosting his first White House joint press availability with a foreign leader, to visit South Korea.

The nations released a joint statement saying they stand for a peaceful, secure and prosperous future for the Korean Peninsula and the region.

As he did Monday with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Mr. Obama offered a greeting in his guest’s native tongue at the beginning of the press conference.

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