Thursday, November 19, 2009

Barack Obama calls on North Korea to end nuclear provocation

Obama's Asia tour ends with stop-off in Seoul, where he announces push for return to bilateral talks on de-nuclearisation

Lee said the two countries were offering a "grand bargain" of political and economic incentives in exchange for Pyongyang's irreversible de-nuclearisation.

Obama added that his special envoy, Stephen Bosworth, would travel to North Korea early next month for bilateral talks aimed at reviving the stalled six-nation discussions.

The north has been pushing for direct negotiations, but Washington says it is only holding them in the hope of resuming the multi-party talks. Pyongyang claims those discussions, which also included South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, infringed its sovereignty.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Lee, Obama told reporters: "The thing I want to emphasise is that President Lee and I both agree we want to break the pattern that existed in the past, in which North Korea behaves in a provocative fashion, and then is willing to return to talk ... and then that leads to seeking further concessions."

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test earlier this year as well as test-firing a series of missiles. Neighbours also regarded a rocket launch as a test of its long-range missile technology, although Pyongyang said it was merely launching a satellite.

Earlier this month it said it had produced more weapons-grade plutonium. Its navy also exchanged fire with the south's for the first time in seven years, with each side accusing the other of violating a disputed sea border.

Relations on the peninsula deteriorated sharply after Lee took power last year and ended his predecessor's policy of free-flowing aid to the north, angering Pyongyang. At one time, aid from the south equated to around 5% of the north's estimated $17bn (£10bn) a year economy.

This morning he stressed that his government was willing to provide substantial amounts in aid if the North renounced its nuclear ambitions.

"I hope that by accepting our proposal, the north will secure safety for itself, improve the quality of life for its people, and open the path to a new future," he said.

Thousands of cheering South Koreans lined the streets of the capital to watch Obama's motorcade drive by – giving him the warmest welcome of his four-nation tour of Asia.

Obama and Lee also agreed to push for progress on a stalled free trade deal, which analysts say could increase their bilateral trade by about $20bn. It currently stands at around $83bn.

Tags : Obama's, Asia, Lee, satellite, political

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