Obama delivers nuclear warning to North Korea, Iran

US President Barack Obama at a military base on the edge of the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. He says North Korea will deepen its isolation if it goes ahead with a rocket launch next month [Reuters].
PHOTO

US President Barack Obama at a military base on the edge of the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. He says North Korea will deepen its isolation if it goes ahead with a rocket launch next month [Reuters].

Last Updated: Mon, 26 Mar 2012 23:57:00 +1100

US President Barack Obama has urged North Korea's leaders to "have the courage to pursue peace" and said Iran was running out of time to end its own nuclear standoff with the world.

President Obama, in an unusually direct appeal to Pyongyang's new leaders, said Washington had "no hostile intent" and was ready to take steps to improve relations.

"But by now it should be clear, your provocations and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not achieved the security you seek, they have undermined it," he said in a major speech at Hankuk University in Seoul.

"Instead of the dignity you desire, you are more isolated. Instead of earning the respect of the world, you have been met with strong sanctions," President Obama said.

If the North's leaders continue down the same road, it will lead to "more broken dreams, more isolation and ever more distance between the people of North Korea and the dignity and opportunity they deserve", he said.

Rocket launch


President Obama, who is visiting South Korea for a 53-nation nuclear security summit starting on Monday, has sharply criticised North Korea's plan for a rocket launch next month.

The North says it will launch a peaceful satellite. The United States and other nations say a disguised missile test would breach UN resolutions and a US-North Korea deal reached last month.

That deal - offering major food aid in return for a partial nuclear freeze and a missile test moratorium - is now in jeopardy.

There will be "no more rewards for provocations. Those days are over," Obama told the North's leaders, urging them to "have the courage to pursue peace and give a better life to the North Korean people".

The untested Kim Jong-Un was proclaimed "great successor" after his father Kim Jong-Il died in December. But Obama said Sunday it was unclear who was "calling the shots" under the new young leader.

Iran warning


President Obama stressed Iran - suspected of pursuing atomic weapons - has the right to peaceful nuclear energy but time and again it had taken "the path of denial, deceit and deception".

"There is time to solve this diplomatically, but time is short," said Mr Obama, who will discuss the issue with the leaders of Russia and China late on Monday.

"Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands. Iran must meet its obligations," he said.

President Obama in 2009 outlined his vision of a world without nuclear weapons and chaired the first nuclear security summit in 2010, dedicated to keeping plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) out of the hands of terrorists.

Since then, the US leader said, nations like Kazakhstan had moved nuclear material to more secure locations. Mexico and Ukraine had removed all HEU from their territory.

"All told, thousands of pounds of nuclear material have been removed from sites around the world - deadly material that is now secure and can never be used against a city like Seoul," he said.


Take a step back


Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who's also in Seoul for the summit, voiced similar concerns to President Obama about North Korea's planned rocket launch.

"North Korea needs to take a step back from this proposed launch," Ms Gillard said

"It is in breach of UN Security Council resolutions. It is a breach of an agreement struck very recently with the United States."

The South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed.

"President Obama and I agreed to continue to strengthen our firm and combined defence readiness as well as taking a decisive response to any threat or provocation from North Korea," said Mr Lee.

Mr Obama also called on China to use its influence on its neighbour.

"I believe that China is very sincere that it does not want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon. But it is going to have to act on that interest in a sustained way."

Demilitarised Zone


On Sunday President Obama visited a US military base on the edge of the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

He told American troops in a dining hall at Camp Bonifas near the border they are part of a "long line" of soldiers who have enabled South Korea to prosper.

"You guys are at freedom's frontier," he said. "The contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker.

"I could not be prouder of what you do."

The US bases 28,500 troops in the South.

Standing behind a bulletproof glass screen, Mr Obama peered deep into North Korea through powerful binoculars and chatted to US military officers.

A huge North Korean flag displayed at a village in the North's section of the DMZ was flying at half-mast to mark the 100th day since the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-il.

The North held a national memorial service on Sunday.

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