News / Asia

    Obama Ignores North Korea in Address to Congress

    FILE -  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gestures as he watches a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gestures as he watches a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    Brian Padden

    Of the many foreign policy challenges confronting the United States, North Korea's recent nuclear test was not among those mentioned in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday.

    U.S. foreign policy’s top priority, he said, must be dealing with threats from ”failing states” in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the terror networks that have grown in that part of the world.

    North Korea analyst Victor Cha with the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said dealing with the growing nuclear threat from North Korea remains an issue of secondary interest. He said he does not expect Obama to change the current containment policy of “strategic patience,” nor does he expect any of the major presidential candidates to make North Korea a major issue in the campaign.  

    “Whoever comes into office about a year from now is going to be dealing with an exponentially worse problem than we are dealing with today,” said Cha.

    Bone numbing pain

    Tensions on the Korean peninsula, however, continued to intensify this week, at least rhetorically.   

    South Korean President Park Geun-hye publicly denounced North Korea Wednesday for conducting its fourth nuclear test, defended her country’s limited response and urged China to support strong international sanctions.

    At a news conference in Seoul, Park said South Korea is cooperating closely with the United States and other allies to develop new United Nations sanctions that will make North Korea feel “bone-numbing pain.”

    However she recognized that without support from China, which provides key economic support to North Korea, it would be difficult to effectively pressure the Kim Jong Un government to halt its nuclear program.  

    “I believe that China will play a more active role as it has shown a clear willingness. We are having discussions with the envoys of the six-party talks to develop effective sanctions,” Park said.

    In 2009, Pyongyang withdrew from the “six party talks” with Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow to halt the North’s nuclear program in exchange for economic assistance and security guarantees.

    On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to detonate a “more powerful H-bomb” in the future and called for an expansion of the size and power of his country's nuclear arsenal, the state television agency KCNA reported.

    North Korea claims its recent nuclear blast was that of a hydrogen bomb that is much more powerful than the atomic bombs it tested in the past. This claim has been largely dismissed by experts, who argue the yield was too low for a full-fledged thermonuclear device.

    South Korean measures

    Park defended her decision to resume anti-Kim Jong Un loudspeaker broadcasts along the border against charges that they are ineffective or overly provocative.

    She said the use of this psychological warfare measure stirs unrest amongst the populist in the North and unnerves the Pyongyang leadership that tightly controls the state run media. She credits the broadcasts used last year, during a flare up in tensions over a land mine incident, for pressuring the North Korean leadership to seek a settlement and make concessions, including an apology for instigating the conflict.

    “Truth is the most important weapon against a totalitarian regime,” she said.

    North Korea has reportedly set up its own loudspeaker towers in the border area that broadcast criticisms of President Park.  

    During her news conference Park credited South Korea’s close military alliance with the United States for generating a strong deterrence and enhancing military readiness to defend against possible North Korean provocations.    

    Washington and Seoul recently conducted a demonstration of airpower close to the border with the North by flying a nuclear capable U.S. B-52 bomber, brought in from Guam, and a South Korea fighter jet.

    However Park said she would not ask the U.S. to station nuclear weapons in South Korea and was non-committal on possibly setting up the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense [THAAD] system in Korea. Beijing reportedly opposes the THAAD deployment in the region because it could be used potentially to intercept Chinese missiles.  

    Park also called on the South Korean parliament to pass a controversial anti-terrorism act to prevent North Korean cyber hacks and attacks by extremist groups. Critics say the measure can be too easily be used to crack down on civil liberties and political opposition.  

    US sanctions

    The U.S. House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously on Tuesday to pass legislation that would broaden unilateral sanctions that would empower the president to seize the assets of North Koreans involved in illicit activities and to sanction banks from other countries that do business with the Kim Jong Un government.

    The measure will likely also find strong support in the Senate and from President Obama.   

    But North Korea currently has no real access to U.S. banks and its leadership has survived international sanctions for years.

    South Korea halted most trade and assistance programs to the North In 2010 after Seoul accused Pyongyang of sinking a South Korean warship and killing 46 sailors.  North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack.

    China supported United Nations sanctions against North Korea in 2013 following its third nuclear test.

    While it may support some further punitive measures after this latest nuclear test, Beijing has been reluctant to back severe sanctions that could cause instability along its border and spark further conflict.

    Youmi Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: KenM from: Burma
    February 10, 2016 12:34 AM
    "Populist" should be corrected to "populace."

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora