While attending a regional summit meeting Sept. 6 in Vientiane, Laos, President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye reaffirmed their countries’ long-standing alliance and condemned North Korea’s nuclear program and missile launches, according to a White House news release.
Obama attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meeting hosted by Laos as part of his Asian trip, which included a prior stop in China to attend the G-20 summit.
In Laos Sept. 6 after a bilateral meeting with South Korea, Obama said it was a pleasure to meet with Park and her delegation. South Korea, he added, is one of America’s oldest and closest allies. That alliance, he said, remains the linchpin “of peace and security, not just on the Korean Peninsula, but across the region.”
North Korea continues its threatening and provocative behavior in the Asia-Pacific region through its missile launches, Obama said. The United States, he said, is deploying a missile defense system — the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system — to its ally South Korea to deter North Korea.
Obama added: “In recent years, we’ve worked together to strengthen our alliance, and to ensure our readiness against any threat. For instance, our missile defense cooperation — THAAD — is a purely defensive system to deter and defend against North Korean threats. And today, I want to reaffirm that our commitment to the defense and security of South Korea, including extended deterrence, is unwavering.”
The United States and South Korea “are united in condemning North Korea’s continued missile launches, including this week while China was hosting the G20,” Obama said. “These launches are provocative. They’re a violation of North Korea’s obligations internationally.”
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, Obama said, are a threat to not only South Korea, but also to Japan and other U.S. allies and partners in the region, and a threat to the United States.
“So we are going to work diligently together with the most recent U.N. sanctions that are already placing North Korea under the most intense sanctions regime ever,” Obama said. “We’re going to work together to make sure that we’re closing loopholes and making them even more effective. And President Park and I agreed that the entire international community needs to implement these sanctions fully and hold North Korea accountable.”
‘Provocations Will Only Invite More Pressure’
North Korea needs to know “that provocations will only invite more pressure and further deepen its isolation,” Obama said, “but that if it is willing to recognize its international obligations and the importance of denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula, the opportunities for us to dialogue with them are there.”
Obama said the U.S.-South Korean alliance is global as well as regional, noting the U.S. and South Korea “stand together” against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The U.S. and South Korea both provide humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people and for refugees, Obama said.
South Korea has been “an excellent partner” in helping Afghanistan to stabilize, Obama said.
And, South Korea “has been an outstanding partner on global health and security issues,” he added.
‘Stalwart Ally, Friend
Park “has been a stalwart ally and friend on a whole range of issues,” Obama said. “And her steady and wise leadership, I think, has greatly contributed to the strengthening of what was already one of our most important alliances. So I want to thank her personally for the excellent contributions she’s made to advancing all the various issues that we’ve been working on. And I want to thank her team as well that worked very hard behind the scenes to make that happen.”
Park said the U.S.-South Korea alliance “is playing a pivotal role for the peace and stability of not only the Korean Peninsula, but the entire region.”
North Korea’s nuclear test earlier this year and its continued launching of missiles “are fundamentally threatening the security of both the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia,” Park said.
South Korea and the U.S. “will respond resolutely to any provocations by North Korea by utilizing all means,” she added.
Park said she expressed her gratitude to Obama for clearly expressing the unwavering commitment of the U.S. for South Korea’s defense. Park said she and Obama “have agreed to maintain a strong deterrence posture by enhancing our combined defense capabilities to include the deployment of the THAAD system.”
The United States and South Korea have agreed to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea, and further strengthen efforts to seal loopholes, Park said.
“Taking into consideration the importance of China’s role in effective implementation of sanctions and the resolution process of the North Korean nuclear issue, our two countries have agreed to continue to communicate with China through various channels,” she said. Park said she and Obama also “have agreed to not only expand cooperation in new frontiers such as global health, climate change and space, but also expand our roles in areas such as refugees, peacekeeping operations and development cooperation.”
“I find it meaningful that through our discussions today, I was able to confirm yet once again that the foundations of our bilateral relationship are rock-solid,” Park said.