The days in which North Korean leaders could manufacture an international crisis and extract concessions from its neighbors are over, President Obama declared during a news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the White House.
Mr. Obama renewed his pledge to continue to defend South Korea against nuclear threats and military incursions from North Korea, holding private talks with Ms. Park about the tense situation on the peninsula following a series of provocations over the past two months by the North’s untested young leader, Kim Jong-un.
“The commitment of the United States to the Republic of Korea will never waver,” Mr. Obama told reporters.
Mr. Obama also heaped praise on Ms. Park, the first democratically elected female leader in Northeast Asia, for facing down “threats and provocations that would test any nation” with the “calm and steady resolve that has defined your life.”
Late last week, Pyongyang removed two of its ballistic missile units from their launching positions in a sudden de-escalation of tension on the divided peninsula after months of belligerent rhetoric from Mr. Kim and other top Pyongyang officials. The move came after Seoul and Washington began a five-day anti-submarine drill in the Yellow Sea using a nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class submarine.
Inter-Korean relations were particularly strained over the U.S.-South Korean military drills and U.N. sanctions in March that sought to punish the North over its February nuclear test, the country’s third.
Last week, South Korea pulled out its last remaining citizens from a joint factory park in North Korea after Pyongyang withdrew all of its 53,000 workers. The park is the last symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement and an important source of hard currency.
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North Korea suffered another financial blow Tuesday, when one of China’s biggest banks said it has halted business with a North Korean bank accused by the U.S. of financing Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs.
Ms. Park said she appreciated the “heart-to-heart” talk she had with Mr. Obama and stressed that the international community must continue to “speak with one voice” in rejecting North Korean threats.
She also predicted that North Korea would not survive if it continues “to cling to nuclear weapons at the expense of its people’s happiness.”
During their bilateral meeting, Ms. Park also noted, she and Mr. Obama discussed the importance of maintaining U.S. visas for highly skilled South Korean workers as Washington considers an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.
Ms. Park, who was elected in February, is visiting the United States to celebrate the anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea defense alliance. She is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Ms. Park is the daughter of former South Korea dictator Park Chung-hee, and she served as the nation’s first lady after a 1974 assassination attempt against her father killed her mother instead. The gunman said he acted on orders from North Korea. Her father, who came to power in a military coup in 1961, was assassinated in 1979 by a member of his security forces.
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.
SEE ALSO: China cuts off North Korean bank, adding to pressure on Pyongyang