U.S. president uses South Korean visit to criticize Russia over Ukrainian crisis and Israelis and Palestinians for Middle East talks impasse
SEOUL - (U.S.) President Barack Obama warned North Korea’s leadership Friday that it would face sanctions “that have even more bite” if plans for a fourth nuclear test are not abandoned.
Obama was speaking to reporters alongside his South Korean counterpart after an alliance-boosting summit. "We can't waver in our intention. We have to make sure that, in strong concert with our allies, that we are continuing to press North Korea to change its approach," Obama said.
The U.S. leader's arrival in Seoul followed the South Korean defense ministry's comments this week that Pyongyang appeared ready to order a nuclear test at any moment amid the detection of activity at its underground test site at Punggye-ri.
South Korea's Park Geun-hye reiterated Friday that her country’s northern neighbor appears “fully ready now” and described the situation as “very tense.”
After hearing Obama speak of their “shoulder-to-shoulder” bond, Park also insisted that "President Obama's visit to South Korea sends a strong message to North Korea that its provocative acts cannot be tolerated.”
The North continues to maintain the importance of its nuclear ambitions despite drawing the condemnation of the United Nations Security Council after conducting its third ever plutonium-based nuclear test last year.
Last month, the country hinted it was ready to experiment with uranium for the first time, threatening to carry out a “new form of nuclear test.” A UN Security Council resolution bars it from nuclear and missile tests.
Pyongyang also warned the South and its allies Wednesday that they “should not even dream” of it giving up its nuclear programs.
When asked about the crisis in Ukraine, the U.S. President also warned that Russia would face greater economic sanctions if it invaded the country's eastern regions.
"We'll continue to keep some arrows in our quiver in the event we see further deterioration," he said, condemning Russia for not criticizing the pro-Moscow militias that have seized administrative buildings in the region.
Armed pro-Russia groups – which claim to be spontaneously assembled local defense forces – have seized over a dozen buildings eastern Ukraine, including in the regional capital Donetsk.
However, mounting evidence points to outside involvement as Russian passport holders, Cossack units and members of Russian ultra-nationalist group Russky Blok - who took an active part in Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March - have been seen by Anadolu Agency reporters among the ranks of local militias.
On the Middle East, Obama criticized both Palestinians and Israelis on Friday for lacking “the kind of political will to actually make tough decisions” during peace talks.
Israel suspended negotiations on Thursday after rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas announced a unity deal.
Obama said: “Realistically there is one door and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations."
The deal between Hamas and Fatah was welcomed by most Arab states, and calls for the formation of a national unity government to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections.
In Israel, however, news of the agreement received a cold reception.
Seoul was the second stop after Japan in Obama's four-day Asia tour, which will also include visits to Malaysia and the Philippines.
Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency