In the News – Obama urges N. Korea to embrace peace, better life for N. Koreans
By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday urged the North Korean leadership to pursue peace and a better life for its people, stressing that there will be no rewards for provocations.
“Here in Korea, I want to speak directly to leaders in Pyongyang,” Obama said during a special lecture at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. “Have the courage to pursue peace and give a better life to the people of North Korea.”
Obama also reiterated his warning to Pyongyang that “there will be no rewards for provocations,” apparently referring to the communist country’s plan to launch a long-range rocket next month.
“The United States has no hostile intent toward your country. We’re committed to peace,” he said.
Obama added that the U.S. is prepared to improve relations with Pyongyang, noting a recent bilateral deal under which the U.S. agreed to give 240,000 tons of food aid to the North in exchange for its temporary suspension of missile and nuclear tests and uranium enrichment activities.
The speech came a day after Obama held summit talks with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak and hours before the opening of the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
Obama hosted the first nuclear summit in Washington in 2010 as part of his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.
The two-day summit in Seoul has drawn representatives from 53 nations and four international organizations mainly to discuss international safeguards against the use of nuclear material by terrorist groups.
“The danger of nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to global security,” Obama told hundreds of students gathered in an auditorium at the university. “And that’s why we in Seoul, we need to keep at it. And I believe we will.”
He said various countries around the world have worked to secure vulnerable nuclear materials that could fall into the hands of terrorists, such as by boosting security at nuclear facilities in South Korea and Japan, moving nuclear materials to more secure sites in Kazakhstan and seizing weapons-grade uranium from smugglers in Georgia and Moldova.
“The international community has made it harder than ever to acquire nuclear weapons,” making the world a safer place to live in, Obama said. He added, however, that he is “under no illusions” that the work is complete.
It is Obama’s third visit to Seoul as president, which indicates the “extraordinary bonds” between the two nations and “our commitment to each other,” Obama said.
“I’ve now been to Seoul more times than any other capital, except for Washington D.C., of course,” he said, prompting laughter from the crowd.
During the 30-minute speech, he also paid tribute to the 46 South Korean sailors who died aboard the warship Cheonan exactly two years ago in an attack blamed on North Korea.
“We stand together and the commitment of the United States to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) will never waiver,” Obama said.
“No matter the test, no matter the trial, we stand together, we work together, we go together. Gachigapshida,” he said to roaring applause, using the Korean words for “Let’s go together.”