Skip to main content

Obama: North Korea will achieve nothing with provocation

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 25, 2012 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "North Korea will achieve nothing by threats," President Obama says
  • NEW: Obama says North Korea's "bad behavior" will not be rewarded
  • NEW: Obama makes his first trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone
  • The president is in South Korea for an international nuclear summit

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- President Barack Obama warned North Korea Sunday that if it moves forward with a planned test-firing of a long-range missile, it will further deepen its isolation, damage relations with its neighbors and face additional sanctions that have already strangled the country.

"North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations," Obama said during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, on the eve of an international nuclear security summit.

"North Korea knows its obligation."

Obama's strong words follow last week's announcement by North Korea that it is planning to carry out a rocket-powered satellite launch in April.

N. Korea's rocket test: Why it matters
Fareed's Take: Nuclear deterrence

The issue is overshadowing message of international cooperation for the summit, which is bringing together top officials from 54 countries including China and Russia.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said during the news conference that he considers the launch a direct violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans the testing of the technology being used in the rocket-powered satellite.

South Korea has said it considers the satellite launch an attempt to develop a nuclear-armed missile, while the United States has warned the move would jeopardize a food-aid agreement reached with Pyongyang in early March.

"Bad behavior will not be rewarded," Obama said.

North Korea says it has a right to a peaceful space program and has invited international space experts and journalists to witness the launch.

A spokesman from the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea denounced the South for working to turn the summit "into a platform for (an) international smear campaign" against the North, according to North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Pyongyang announced this month it would carry out a "satellite launch" in mid-April to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country's founder.

Using ballistic missile technology, however, is in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 and against a deal struck with the United States earlier this month that it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests in return for food aid.

In North Korea, a brutal choice

Pyongyang has said it will see any critical statement of its nuclear program as "a declaration of war."

Prior to the news conference, Obama made his first visit to the demilitarized zone that splits the Korean peninsula. Obama peered through binoculars into North Korea where flags flew at half-staff to mark the 100-day anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il.

"It's like you are in a time warp. It's like you are looking across 50 years into a country that has missed 40 or 50 years of progress," Obama said during the news conference.

The president said the real consequence for North Korea, should it go through with the launch, is that the country's leaders will miss an opportunity "to take a different path than the one they have been taking."

"I hope that at some point the North Koreans make the decision that it is in their interests to figure out how to feed their people and improve their economy rather than have big parades where they show off weapons," Obama said.

From propaganda to pop artist

The purpose of Obama's visit to the demilitarized zone was to meet with some of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

"When you think about the transformation that has taken place in South Korea during my lifetime, it is directly attributable to this long line of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen who were willing to create the space and the opportunity for freedom and prosperity," Obama told troops at a base near the DMZ.

It was Obama's first trip to the demilitarized zone, though he has made two previous trips to South Korea as president. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to the area in 2010.

Across the border on Sunday, North Koreans were mourning the death of Kim.

Kim's son, who took over from his father following his death in December, and senior party officials visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to observe a moment of silence, said North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The palace serves as the burial site for Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, and his son, Kim, who succeeded him as the country's ruler.

Obama said he had not been able to assess the new leader of North Korea, saying "It's not clear exactly who is calling the shots and what their long-term objectives are."

Seoul's nuclear summit will be the second after Obama hosted the first meeting in Washington in 2010. He initiated the biennial summit after presenting his vision of a nuclear-free world in Prague in April 2009.

The official agenda will deal with nuclear terrorism and how to secure the world's nuclear material.

Obama's visit comes virtually two years to the day after the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, which left 46 sailors dead.

South Korea says a North Korean torpedo attack was to blame for the ship's sinking. The North has denied the accusation.

CNN's Paula Hancocks, Shruti Pant, Jethro Mullen and Bob Kovach contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
North Korea has released photos that claim to show leader Kim Jong Un, whose absence for over a month has raised speculation.
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Despite tense relations, China benefits from Kim Jong Un's rule in North Korea. David McKenzie explains.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system," the country declares.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT)
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
May 28, 2013 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
Beijing-based tour company posts exclusive photos and video from inspection visit.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
March 27, 2013 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
A German photographer returns from the closed country with unlikely pictures of everyday residents.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Visiting the DPRK is easy these days, so long as you don't forget to play by their rules.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT