Obama takes look from DMZ, finds ‘time warp’ in North Korea

Warns against planned rocket launch

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY DAVE BOYER

SEOUL | Fresh from his first visit to the De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone, Pres­i­dent Obama re­peat­edly said Sun­day and Mon­day that North Korea would bring more mis­ery on it­self if it pro­ceeds with the planned launch of a lon­grange rocket and other provo­ca­tions.

“North Korea will achieve noth­ing by threats or provo­ca­tions,” Mr. Obama said Sun­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in South Korea, where he was to at­tend a nu­clear se­cu­rity sum­mit.

It was a mes­sage he re­it­er­ated Mon­day morn­ing in a speech at Hankuk Univer­sity in Seoul, where he called on Py­ongyang’s lead­ers to cease their

provoca­tive be­hav­ior to­ward the rest of the world.

“The United States has no hos­tile in­tent to­ward your coun­try,” Mr. Obama said, ad­dress­ing North Korea. “We are com­mit­ted to peace. But by now it should be clear, your provo­ca­tions and pur­suit of nu­clear weapons have not achieved the se­cu­rity you seek, they have un­der­mined it.”

Re­fer­ring to a jeop­ar­dized deal to pro­vide food aid to North Korea in ex­change for sus­pend­ing its nu­clear pro­grams, Mr. Obama said, “There will be no re­wards for provo­ca­tions. Those days are over. To the lead­ers of Py­ongyang, I say this is the choice be­fore you. Have the courage to pur­sue peace and give a bet­ter life to the peo­ple of North Korea.”

The speech came a day af­ter the pres­i­dent went for the first time to the DMZ, the heav­ily pa­trolled no-man’s land be­tween the two Koreas, where he peered through binoc­u­lars at North Korea.

“It’s like you’re in a time warp,” Mr. Obama said at Sun­day’s press con­fer­ence. “It’s like you’re look­ing across 50 years into a coun­try that has missed 40 years or 50 years of progress.”

South Korean Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak went fur­ther than Mr. Obama in their joint news con­fer­ence, de­mand­ing that North Korea “repeal” its an­nounce­ment that it would launch a satel­lite us­ing a long-range rocket in mid-april. The U.S. and South Korea say the mis­sile launch would vi­o­late a U.N. ban on nu­clear and mis­sile ac­tiv­ity.

Ear­lier Sun­day, Mr. Obama gazed into North Korea through binoc­u­lars at the DMZ and told U.S. troops sta­tioned there that they are part of a “long line” of sol­diers pre­serv­ing free­dom for South Korea.

“You guys are at free­dom’s fron­tier,” Mr. Obama told about 50 troops at a din­ing hall in Camp Boni­fas. “The con­trast be­tween South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker. I could not be prouder of what you do.”

From that lo­ca­tion just out­side the DMZ, Mr. Obama and his en­tourage crossed into the bor­der re­gion for a photo-op glimpse of the com­mu­nist north from a strate­gic look­out called Ob­ser­va­tion Post Ouel­lette.

The pres­i­dent, wear­ing a brown leather bomber jacket, looked through binoc­u­lars as two mil­i­tary es­corts ex­plained var­i­ous ge­o­graph­i­cal fea­tures of the DMZ. Mr. Obama could be heard by re­porters nearby ask­ing about the pop­u­la­tion of a vil­lage in North Korea about 71/ miles away.

The pres­i­dent spent about 10 min­utes at the look­out post. A U.S. Em­bassy staffer ear­lier warned re­porters that the North Kore­ans might sound alarms at noon lo­cal time (11 p.m. EDT Satur­day) while Mr. Obama was at the post to com­mem­o­rate the 100th day since the death of dic­ta­tor Kim Jongil. No sirens were heard.

The pres­i­dent, dur­ing his hour­long visit to the DMZ, told U.S. troops that they are up­hold­ing an im­por­tant com­mit­ment that be­gan at the end of the Korean War nearly 60 years ago. About 28,500 U.S. troops are sta­tioned in South Korea.

“When you think about the trans­for­ma­tion that has taken place in South Korea in my life­time, it is di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to this long line of sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines, Coast Guards­men who were will­ing to en­able South Korea to ob­tain free­dom and op­por­tu­nity,” Mr. Obama said.

He said Mr. Lee once con­fided to him in a pri­vate mo­ment that he would not have been able to rise from a child­hood of poverty to his promi­nence with­out the help that the U.S. mil­i­tary has pro­vided to his na­tion.

Mr. Obama told the troops that the suc­cess of South Korea has to do with their “re­silience” and hard work, “but it also has to do with you guys.”

“There’s some­thing about this spot . . . such an ob­vi­ous im­pact that you’ve had ev­ery day,” he said. “We’re grate­ful to you; we’re proud of you.”

Mr. Obama ar­rived in South Korea early Sun­day to be­gin three days of talks about nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion in­volv­ing lead­ers from 53 na­tions and four in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, in ad­di­tion to vis­it­ing the DMZ.

It’s the pres­i­dent’s third visit to South Korea.

As the nu­clear se­cu­rity sum­mit be­gan Mon­day, Mr. Obama told the stu­dents at Hankuk that the United States has a “unique re­spon­si­bil­ity” to lead global ef­forts to re­duce nu­clear weapons stock­piles and to de­ter nu­clear pro­grams in North Korea and Iran.

“I say this as pres­i­dent of the only na­tion ever to use nu­clear weapons,” Mr. Obama said in his speech.

He also told his Korean hosts Mon­day that he en­vi­sions a day when the two sides of the di­vided penin­sula will be re­united.

“Change will un­fold that once seemed im­pos­si­ble,” Mr. Obama said. “Check­points will open. Watch­tow­ers will stand empty. Fam­i­lies long sep­a­rated will fi­nally be re­united. The Korean peo­ple, at long last, will be whole and free.”

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