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Obama, S. Korean President Criticize N. Korea’s Actions

President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak criticized North Korea's recent provocations Tuesday in the latest round of the ongoing diplomatic standoff. Analysts consider how international pressure and new sanctions may affect the region.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    As tensions continue to mount between the U.S. and North Korea, President Obama played host today to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Mr. Obama used the occasion to toughen his approach toward the reclusive and diplomatically uncooperative North Koreans.

    BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: There's been a pattern in the past where North Korea behaves in a belligerent fashion and, if it waits long enough, is then rewarded with foodstuffs and fuel and concessionary loans and a whole range of benefits. And I think that's the pattern that they've come to expect.

    The message we're sending — and when I say "we," not simply the United States and the Republic of Korea, but I think the international community — is, we are going to break that pattern.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In recent weeks, North Korea has launched a series of missile and nuclear weapons tests. And last week, two U.S. journalists were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for allegedly crossing into North Korea illegally.

    The international community has retaliated. Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to enhance sanctions against North Korea. China and Russia, which have traditionally resisted such moves, agreed.

    In Rose Garden remarks today, Mr. Obama said the sanctions will allow the U.S. and other nations to step up interception, tracking and inspections of North Korean ships suspected of carrying banned cargo.

    North Korea has said forced inspections would be an act of war.

    Both presidents reiterated today that they would not allow North Korea to become a nuclear power.

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    Its nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a grave threat to peace and security of Asia and to the world.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It fell to President Lee to appeal for clemency for the two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, as well as a South Korean worker who was also being held.

    LEE MYUNG-BAK, President of South Korea (through translator): They haven't been giving us any explanation. I urge the North Koreans to release not only the two American journalists, but also the South Korean worker, without any conditions.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    At a Senate Armed Services hearing today, the Pentagon's second-in-charge, William Lynn, said North Korea's arms build-up is a danger.

  • WILLIAM LYNN, Deputy Defense Secretary:

    Certainly their testing program has accelerated with the Taepodong-2 launches and the nuclear weapons, nuclear device test. We think it ultimately could, if taken to its conclusion, it could present a threat to the U.S. homeland.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What President Obama today called the grave threat posed by North Korea is scheduled to be on the agenda when the Group of Eight industrialized nations meet in Italy next month.

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