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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora