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Obama, Lee agree to strongly punish N. Korea for nuke test: White House

All Headlines 11:45 May 26, 2009

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, May 25 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Monday agreed to strongly punish North Korea for its nuclear test conducted a day earlier in violation of U.N. resolutions passed following its previous test.

"The President spoke to Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak this evening to consult and coordinate our reaction to the North Korean nuclear test," the White House said in a statement. "They agreed to work closely together to seek and support a strong United Nations Security Council resolution with concrete measures to curtail North Korea's nuclear and missile activities."

North Korea said it conducted a second nuclear test early Monday (Korea time). The North's first test in 2006, widely viewed by the international community as a partial success at best, drew U.N. resolutions prohibiting any further nuclear and long-range missile tests.

"The two Presidents agreed that the test was a reckless violation of international law that compels action in response," the statement said.

The U.S. and its allies failed to push the 15-member security council to adopt a legally-binding resolution condemning North Korea's April 5 rocket launch amid strong opposition from Russia and the North's staunchest ally China.

A presidential statement was issued by the council instead, which called for sanctioning three North Korean firms involved in the trading of weapons of mass destruction and component parts.

It is not clear yet whether China and Russia will again block efforts by the U.S. and its allies to push ahead with a strong resolution at council meetings expected to be convened in the coming days.

Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, who holds the rotating chair of the council this month, said earlier in the day that council members "voiced their strong opposition and condemnation of the nuclear test conducted on 25 May 2009 by North Korea, which constitutes a clear violation of Resolution 1718."

China Monday strongly demanded that North Korea "keep its promise of denuclearization and cease all actions that could further worsen the situation," while Russia feared the test would "provoke an escalation of tensions in Northeast Asia."

In their telephone conversation, Obama also "assured President Lee of the unequivocal commitment of the United States to the defense of the Republic of Korea," the White House said.

Obama "expressed his appreciation to President Lee for the decision by the Republic of Korea to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)," it said.

South Korea announced that it will fully join the U.S.-led initiative, a consortium of 95 countries aimed at intercepting vessels and airplanes suspected of trading in weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea had been reluctant to become a full member of the PSI so as not to provoke North Korea, which says Seoul's participation would be seen as tantamount to a declaration of war.

Obama also spoke via phone with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to "review the situation following North Korea's nuclear test," the White House said.

Obama "underscored that North Korea's nuclear test was a clear violation of United Nations Security Council," the statement said.

The leaders "agreed that continued close bilateral cooperation is imperative, and decided to intensify coordination with the Republic of Korea as well as with China and Russia," it said.

hdh@yna.co.kr
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