WASHINGTON — Declaring North Korea a "grave threat" to the world, President Barack Obama on Tuesday pledged that the United States and its allies will aggressively enforce fresh international penalties against the nuclear-armed nation and stop rewarding its leaders for repeated provocations.
Obama said the world must break a pattern in which North Korea puts the globe on edge, only to put itself in line for concessions if it holds out long enough.
"We are more than willing to engage in negotiations to get North Korea on a path of peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, and we want to encourage their prosperity," Obama said in the Rose Garden with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak. "But belligerent, provocative behavior that threatens neighbors will be met with significant and serious enforcement of sanctions that are in place."
Emboldened by fresh assurances of protection by the United States, Lee went even further in warning that North Korea's tactics will not be tolerated. Asked whether he feels that his country is under the threat of attack from the North, Lee said his country's alliance with the United States will "prevent anything from happening."
He said of the North Koreans, "They will think twice about taking any measures that they will regret."
North Korea conducted its second nuclear test on May 25 after a series of missile launches. The United Nations Security Council last week imposed new sanctions that toughen an arms embargo against North Korea and authorize ship searches in an attempt to thwart the Koreans' nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The United Nations, however, did not authorize military force to enforce the measures.
Lee was the first foreign leader in Obama's nearly 5-month-old presidency to make a joint appearance with him in the Rose Garden. He spoke repeatedly of his nation's firm partnership with the United States and thanked the American people "for their selfless sacrifice in defending my country and its people."
Trade deal: Lee told representatives of top U.S. companies that "now is the time to step up" and ratify a free trade deal that he said would strengthen the countries' alliance. But U.S. lawmakers say such a deal could hurt an already suffering American auto industry. Obama said earlier Tuesday that he wants to make sure differences over autos are settled before the deal is sent to Congress for ratification.