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(LEAD) Obama says N. Korea poses grave challenges to S. Korea, U.S.: official
SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye in a recent message that close cooperation between the two allies will play a pivotal role in coping with grave challenges from North Korea and other pending issues, a spokesman said Thursday.

   Obama made the remark in a congratulatory message delivered to Park when she met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and other senior American officials, according to Park Sun-kyoo, a transition committee spokesman.

   "Though we are now faced with grave challenges from North Korea, the close cooperation between South Korea and the U.S. will play a pivotal role in effectively dealing with the issue of North Korea and other major pending issues," Obama was quoted as saying.

   The spokesman spoke in Korean and the English version of the message was not available.

   Obama also said in the message that he looks forward to working with Park to further strengthen and expand the alliance between their two countries, adding that this cooperation has been expanding to deal with global issues like improving human rights and nuclear nonproliferation,
Obama also said he is looking forward to meeting with Park in person, the spokesman said.

   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sent a separate message offering her heartfelt congratulations to Park on her election as South Korea's first female president, according to the spokesman.

   Clinton said she hopes close cooperation between the two countries will continue under Park's administration.

   Park is set to assume office on Feb. 25.

   Last month, North Korea launched a long-range rocket and succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit, demonstrating to the world that it is closer to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons as far as the United States.

   Concerns have risen in recent weeks that the communist nation could conduct its third nuclear test. Pyongyang carried out its two previous tests came in 2006 and 2009, both of them occurring after long-range rocket or missile launches.