(5th LD) Park warns of stronger sanctions against N. Korea over possible provocation
(ATTN: UPDATES with quote of Obama; Minor edits)
By Kim Kwang-tae
WASHINGTON, March 31 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye warned North Korea against staging another provocation as she met Thursday with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
North Korea is under growing international pressure to drop its nuclear ambitions after it carried out its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea that call for, among other things, the mandatory inspection of all cargo going into and out of the North, and a ban on the country's exports of coal and other mineral resources to cut off North Korea's access to hard currency.
"I warn once again that North Korea will face stronger sanctions and isolation if the North carries out another provocation," Park said at the trilateral summit, apparently referring to North Korea's possible nuclear test.
President Park Geun-hye speaks in a joint news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after their trilateral summit on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on March 31, 2016 (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country will soon conduct "a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads" in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.
South Korea believes the North could conduct a fifth nuclear test at any time.
Park called for the thorough implementation of the sanctions to make North Korea recognize that it cannot survive unless it drops its nuclear program.
North Korea has repeatedly vowed to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal in tandem, a policy Seoul and Washington have said is a dead end for the country.
Obama called for the international community to vigilantly enforce the strong U.N. sanctions.
"We are united in our efforts to deter and defend against North Korean provocations," Obama said. "We recognize that our security is linked.
Abe also said the three countries agreed to boost trilateral cooperation to cope with the threat posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.
Park also said she agreed with Obama and Abe to strengthen efforts to help improve the dismal human rights situation in North Korea.
Obama said that the three countries will work closely together to promote "opportunities and prosperity for the North Korean people who have been suffering so severely because of human rights abuses in North Korea."
In December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution for the second consecutive year that calls for referring the North to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.
North Korea has long been accused of grave human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions.
Still, the North has denied any rights abuses, describing the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.
Park also said she agreed with Obama and Abe to strengthen cooperation on climate change, counter-terrorism, health care and other global issues.
Park said she expects South Korea, the U.S. and Japan to expand cooperation in eliminating cancers as she welcomed the U.S. anti-cancer initiative.
In February, the White House announced a new $1 billion initiative to identify ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.
Park also held two separate talks with Obama and Abe, though no details were immediately available.
Park is set to hold one-on-one summit Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Park is likely to ask China to play an active role in reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk told reporters.
"We've seen China step up in many ways in terms of applying pressure. The fact is, it has to over time affect the calculus of the North Korean leadership," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said Wednesday in a press call posted on the White House website.
China, the North's last major ally and economic benefactor, has voted in favor of the toughest U.N. sanctions and vowed to strictly enforce them, in a sign of departure from its previous reluctance to put pressure on North Korea.
China has long been worried that tougher measures against North Korea could destabilize its communist neighbor and trigger an influx of North Koreans across the porous border.
The back-to-back summits come on the margins of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit meant to discuss how to tackle the threats of nuclear terrorism and how to strengthen an international regime for nuclear security.
The nuclear summit has been held every two years since Obama hosted the inaugural summit in 2010 as part of efforts to make the world free of nuclear weapons. This year's meeting is to be the final summit.