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Observers: Obama-Park Summit Show United Front on N. Korea


At a joint news conference Friday at the White House, Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama showed unity in dealing with North Korea.

At a joint news conference Friday at the White House, Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama showed unity in dealing with North Korea.

Last week's summit between leaders of the United States and South Korea was an opportunity for the two allies to present a united front against provocations from North Korea, observers say.

During Friday’s joint news conference, U.S. President Barack Obama and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, did not introduce any groundbreaking measures against the North. Instead, they stressed solidarity on existing positions.

The meeting was significant not only for its symbolism, but also for the stance relating to North Korea, said Joseph DeTrani, former senior adviser to the director of National Intelligence.

"The message to Pyongyang is clear," DeTrani said. "North Korea should agree to discuss the complete and verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear programs, in exchange for security assurances and economic deliverables…. In short, the ball is in North Korea’s court."

It had committed to those terms in a joint statement of principles signed a decade ago by six countries – China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

David Straub, former director of the State Department’s Korea Desk, said the two allies will demand more from those involved in the six-party talks. "Washington and Seoul will press China and Russia harder to use their influence to bring North Korea to genuine denuclearization talks," he said.

Confronting concerns about China

The meeting between Obama and Park also presented a chance to confront concerns over South Korea’s warming of relations with China, according to experts.

Obama "made it clear, contrary to some South Korean reporters’ thinking, that the United States genuinely does not believe that Seoul’s relations with Washington and Beijing are a zero-sum game," said Straub.

During the news conference, Obama said, "We want South Korea to have a strong relationship with China, just as we want to have a strong relationship with China."

A month before her Washington visit, Park attended a military parade in Beijing, which marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the defeat of Japanese forces.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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    Jee Abbey Lee

    Jee Abbey Lee is a veteran broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, and the web. She serves as Voice of America's social media correspondent and is an expert of millennial lifestyle. 

    Lee received her graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to joining VOA, she worked at the Seoul bureau of CNN Travel and served as the chief Bank of Korea correspondent for Arirang TV. 

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