WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama expressed clear support Friday for South Korea to bolster relations with China, saying it’s wrong to believe good relations between Seoul and Beijing are bad for the Korea-U.S. alliance.
The remark is expected to lay to rest questions that have arisen in the U.S. about the health of the alliance between South Korean and the U.S. after South Korean President Park Geun-hye attended a massive Chinese military parade seen as a show of force at a time of growing rivalry with the U.S.
“Sometimes there’s a perception that if President Park meets with President Xi, that must cause a problem for us,” Obama said during a joint news conference with Park. “We want South Korea to have a strong relationship with China, just as we want to have a strong relationship with China.”
Obama said the U.S. wants to see China to rise peacefully and cooperate with the U.S. in putting pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program and upholding international norms and rules of the road.
“So there’s no contradiction between the Republican of Korea having good relations with us, being a central part of our alliance and having good relations with China,” he said.
Asked about the health of the alliance, Obama said, “I don’t see any cracks in the relationship at all. I would argue that the U.S.-ROK relationship is stronger than it ever has been, that the alliance is on firmer footing than it’s ever been.”
He said the Seoul-Washington alliance is the “linchpin” of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.
On North Korea, Obama urged the communist nation to make the strategic decision to denuclearize.
“At the point where Pyongyang says, ‘We’re interested in seeing relief from sanctions and improved relations, and we are prepared to have a serious conversation about denuclearization,’ I think it’s fair to say we’ll be right there at the table,” Obama said.
He urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, saying they have “achieved nothing except to deepen North Korea’s isolation.” He also said that any provocation or aggression will be met by a “strong, united response” from South Korea and the United States.
Obama also said the North’s “byeongjin” policy of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development won’t work.
“Pyongyang needs to understand it will not achieve the economic development it seeks so long as it clings to nuclear weapons,” he said.
Obama reiterated that the U.S. will never accept the North as a nuclear state.
“We will continue to insist that Pyongyang must abide by its obligations on the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula in a peaceful manner,” he said. “Given the horrific treatment of the North Korean people by their government, our two nations will continue to expose abuses and call for accountability for human rights violations.”
Obama also expressed full support for Park’s policy on North Korea and her vision for unification with North Korea and regional peace.
“President Park has articulated a better vision: a unified Korea, free from the fear of war and nuclear weapons, and that’s a vision that we very much support,” he said. “Beyond the peninsula, President Park shared her proposal, the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative, to build a greater cooperation among the countries of the region, and we welcome those efforts.”
The Korea Herald