South Korean President Park Geun-Hye joined President Obama in a press conference Tuesday, where the two payed homage to the 60th anniversary of the defense treaty between their countries amid heightened tensions over months of nuclear threats from North Korea.
“If Pyongyang thought its recent threats would drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States, or somehow garner the North international respect, today is further evidence that North Korea has failed again,” President Obama said.
Park, South Korea’s newly-installed leader–the nation’s first female leader–elaborated on a statement she made Monday that North Korea would not be allowed to get away with continued bellicose behavior.
“Regarding North Korea’s provocations and bad behavior, we will make them pay,” Park said in response to a question. Her statements were translated from Korean. ”What I meant was that if they engage in military provocations and harm the lives of our people and the safety of our people, then naturally, as a president who gives the top priority to ensuring the safety of our people, it is something that we can’t just pass over.”
“So if North Korea engages in provocations, I will fully trust the judgment of our military. So if our military makes a judgment which they feel is the right thing, then they should act accordingly. And this is the instruction that I had made,” Park said.
Both leaders called for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula; the North has shown an aggressive commitment to expanding its nuclear program under young leader Kim Jong-un. In March, the United Nations Security Council voted to impose one of the toughest sanctions regimes in the body’s history after North Korea threatened to hit the United States in a preemptive nuclear strike. President Obama said the new international sanctions have caused North Korea to become “more isolated than ever” and said “the burden is on Pyongyang to take meaningful steps to abide by its commitments and obligations,” particularly denuclearization, if it wants to engage diplomatically with either country.
“President Park and myself very much share the view that we are going to maintain a strong deterrent, we’re not going to reward provocative behavior, but we remain open to the prospect of North Korea taking a peaceful path,” Obama said.
A senior U.S. official confirmed to NBC News Monday that North Korea removed two missiles with a range of about 2,000 miles from their launch site on the country’s east coast, downgrading them from launch-ready status.