President Obama said Tuesday that North Korea could no longer bully the world with nuclear threats, pledging that the alliance between the United States and South Korea “will not reward provocative actions.”
“The days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions — those days are over,” Obama said.
He also said North Korea should “take notice of countries like Burma” that have adopted reforms that have been greeted with eased trade sanctions.
“We're not going to reward provocative behavior, but we remain open to the idea of North Korea taking a peaceful path of denuclearization,” Obama said.
The two leaders met just a day after North Korea withdrew two mobile ballistic missiles from a launch site on its eastern coast, a sign that tensions in the region could be thawing.
The initial deployment of the missile was just one of a number of antagonistic steps taken by Pyongyang in response to new sanctions implemented by the United Nations. The Security Council — including traditional North Korean ally, China — implemented the new penalties after an atomic test by North Korea just weeks before Park became president.
In addition to the missile movements, North Korea warned foreign diplomats to evacuate from the South, expelled workers from a joint economic zone on the border and threatened a nuclear attack on the United States.
While the posturing was largely dismissed by national security analysts, Pyongyang's fiery rhetoric nevertheless prompted U.S.-South Korean military drills and the shifting of missile defense systems in the region.
Obama reiterated Tuesday that he was more focused on new North Korean leader Kim Jung Un’s actions than his rhetoric.
“There's going to have to be changes in behavior,” Obama said. “We have an expression in English, ‘Don't worry about what I say, just watch what I do.’”
Obama and Park discussed the series of threats in a meeting Tuesday morning in the Oval Office, as well as trade and economic development.
Park said the leaders had a “heart-to-heart talk on a wide range of common interests.”
“We reaffirmed that we, by no means, would tolerate North Korea's threats and provocations,” Park said, adding that further posturing would “only deepen North Korea's isolation.”
Park's visit to the United States is intended to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries. She visited New York before Washington, and plans to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.