(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S. warn N. Korea of consequences over missile or nuclear test
(ATTN: UPDATES with more details of summit)
By Kim Kwang-tae
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama warned Friday that North Korea will face consequences if it carries out a ballistic missile or nuclear test as they vowed to address the North Korean nuclear problem with utmost urgency and determination.
There is lingering speculation that Pyongyang may launch a long-range rocket in the coming months to put what it claims is a satellite into orbit.
Seoul and Washington view a satellite launch as a cover for testing the North's ballistic missile technology, which is banned under U.N. resolutions.
The North has suggested that it may conduct a nuclear test in response to what it claims is the hostile policy of the United States and its allies.
South Korea and the U.S. vowed to maintain a robust deterrence posture and enhance close collaboration to better respond to all forms of North Korean provocations.
"If North Korea carries out a launch using ballistic missile technology or a nuclear test, it will face consequences, including further significant measures by the U.N. Security Council," Park and Obama said in a joint statement issued after their summit in Washington.
It is the first time that South Korea and the U.S. have adopted a joint statement on North Korea, a move that demonstrated that the allies place a top priority on the issue.
The two leaders also vowed to work with the international community to ensure the effective and transparent implementation of all U.N. Security Council resolutions, including sanctions measures, on North Korea.
North Korea agreed to scrap its nuclear weapons program in exchange for diplomatic concessions and economic aid under a landmark 2005 deal with the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.
The North later backtracked from its commitment and conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, drawing international condemnation and U.N. sanctions.
The two leaders also vowed to strengthen coordination with China and the other parties to quickly bring North Korea back to credible and meaningful talks on ending its nuclear program.
China is believed to have significant leverage over North Korea, which has long been dependent on Chinese diplomatic support and economic aid.
Still, it remains unclear how the summit will provide the momentum to restart the talks, which were last held in 2008. The nuclear dialogue also involves Russia and Japan.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands after holding a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington on Oct. 16, 2015. They warned that North Korea will face consequences if it carries out a ballistic missile or nuclear test as they vowed to address the North Korean nuclear problem with utmost urgency and determination. (Yonhap) The resumption "eventually depends on North Korea," said a senior South Korean official involved in the six-nation nuclear talks, adding that China and Russia are also aware that Pyongyang is responsible for the stall.
Park and Obama held out a brighter future for North Korea if Pyongyang demonstrates a genuine willingness to completely abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"We will never accept North Korea as a nuclear-weapon state, and that its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is incompatible with its economic development goals," the statement said.
The North has repeatedly pledged to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal in tandem, claiming it was compelled to go nuclear due to Washington's hostile policy against it.
South Korea and the U.S. maintain that they have "no hostile policy towards North Korea and remain open to dialogue with North.
The two leaders also vowed to intensify high-level strategic consultations to create a favorable environment for the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula.
"The United States will continue to strongly support" Park's vision of a peacefully unified Korean Peninsula, the statement said.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with a cease-fire agreement, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.
Park has repeatedly called for a peaceful unification, calling it "the fundamental solution" to resolve the nuclear dispute and other problems arising from North Korea.
Park and Obama also pledged to work with the international community to improve North Korea's dismal human rights record and ensure accountability 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.
The North, however, as flatly denied accusations of its alleged rights abuses, describing them as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime. It has claimed it has the world's most advantageous human rights conditions and policies.
Also on Friday, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to push for the signing of a space cooperation agreement and to cooperate in health security and cybersecurity as a new frontier of their alliance.
Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office, also said it and the White House agreed to set up a channel for cooperation on cybersecurity.
The U.S. also welcomed South Korea's interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership as the two sides agreed to resume high-level economic consultations.
On Thursday, Park said South Korean and U.S. companies will both stand to benefit if Seoul joins the world's largest trading bloc.
The summit came weeks before Park is to host the leaders of China and Japan to boost cooperation in the region where tensions persist over territory and their shared history.
Park has pushed for her initiative meant to build trust in the region by jointly tackling softer, nonpolitical issues, such as the environment and disaster relief, before expanding cooperation to serious political and security matters.
The U.S. said it hopes to send Sung Kim, a senior U.S. official, to the high-level talks South Korea is set to host later this month on the initiative.