SEOUL, South Korea — President Barack Obama warned North Korea on Sunday not to follow through on a planned long-range missile test next month, accusing the authoritarian regime of leading its people down a "dead end" and vowing to break its pattern of "bad behavior."
Opening a three-day trip here for a nuclear security summit, Obama spoke in stern terms as he sought to ramp up international pressure on Pyongyang to abandon what U.S. officials have termed a direct violation of the North's pledge to end weapons tests in exchange for food aid.
"North Korea needs to understand that bad behavior will not be rewarded," Obama said during an evening news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak after the two met to discuss security and trade issues.
"It has been a pattern for decades that North Korea thought if it acts provocatively, it would somehow be bribed into ceasing and desisting acting provocatively," Obama added. "President Lee and I decided we are going to break that pattern."
The North's belligerence has overshadowed the summit's primary agenda, securing loose fissile materials and keeping them out of the hands of terrorists. More than 50 world leaders are gathered for the summit, which begins today.
Obama also called on China, the North's main benefactor and ally, to get tougher on the regime because, the president said, Beijing's habit of "turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations … that's obviously not working."
But in a sign that Pyongyang is unfazed by Obama's tough talk, North Korea proceeded Sunday with an ongoing celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of its first communist leader, Kim Il Sung. The rocket launch, planned for mid April, also is meant to commemorate the occasion and affirm the Kim family's power after Kim's grandson, Kim Jong Eun, ascended to the rank of supreme leader upon the death of his father in December.
The North has called the launch a way to deliver a satellite into orbit, but the United States and other nations have described it as a barely disguised effort by the nuclear-equipped nation to test its long-range missile capability.