SEOUL - US President Barack Obama said on Sunday there was still time to
resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff through diplomacy but that the
window for such a solution was closing.
He has pressed Israel to hold off on any attack on Iran's nuclear sites
to give sanctions and diplomacy time to work. But he has said military
action remains an option if all else fails.
Obama reiterated his
position on the Iran nuclear issue after talks with Turkish Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of a nuclear security summit in
"I believe there is a window of time to solve this diplomatically but that window is closing," Obama told reporters.
spoke to Obama of his planned visit to Iran before the end of the month
and said he would also talk to Iranian leaders about the violence in
Syria, an ally of Tehran, a senior US official said.
on Sunday, Obama peered across South Korea's tense border with the
North on Sunday in a show of solidarity with US ally Seoul and a message
of resolve to Pyongyang's new young ruler in his country's nuclear
standoff with the West.
Arriving on the eve of the summit, Obama
flew by helicopter to a US base on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone
(DMZ) as a solemn North Korea came to a halt to mark the 100th day after
"dear leader" Kim Jong-il's death.
guys are at freedom's frontier," Obama told about 50 troops crammed
into the Camp Bonifas mess at one of the world's most heavily fortified
"The contrast between South Korea and North Korea
could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom and
in terms of prosperity."
He spent about 10 minutes on a viewing
platform at the DMZ, talking with some of the soldiers on guard as the
flags of the United States, South Korea and the United Nations flapped
loudly in the brisk, cold wind.
Obama peered through binoculars
from behind bullet-proof glass across to North Korea, pointing at
something in the distance. He turned to look at the opposing flags of
the two countries being flown on towering masts either side of the DMZ.
The North Korean flag flew at half-mast for Kim.
which followed in the footsteps of White House predecessors and bristled
with Cold War symbolism, came amid rising concern over a planned North
Korean rocket launch next month that threatens to derail a deal to
resume US food aid.
Washington has condemned reclusive and
impoverished North Korea's rocket launch plan, which it says will send a
satellite into orbit, as a violation of its promise to halt long-range
missile launches, nuclear tests and uranium enrichment.
plans to lobby the leaders of China and Russia at the Seoul summit to
pressure Pyongyang to stop next month's launch, timed to coincide with
big celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the
state's founder, Kim Il-sung.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency
quoted a military official on Sunday as saying the main body of the
rocket had been moved to the launch site on North Korea's west coast.
White House cast Obama's first visit to the DMZ, which has bisected the
peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953, as a way to showcase
the strength of the US-South Korean alliance and thank some of the
nearly 30,000 American troops still deployed in South Korea.
images of Obama venturing into the heavily mined DMZ could burnish his
commander-in-chief credentials in an election year and help counter
Republican accusations that he has not been tough enough on America's
But North Korea's defiance is clouding Obama's much-touted
nuclear disarmament agenda, which is also being challenged by Iran's
continued nuclear developments in the face of sanctions and
international criticism.Over 50 world leaders to meet at nuclear security summit
will join more than 50 other world leaders on Monday for a follow-up to
the inaugural nuclear security summit he organized in Washington in
2010 to help combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Korea and Iran are not on the guest list or the official agenda, they
are expected to be the main focus of Obama's array of bilateral meetings
on the sidelines of the two-day summit.
Obama's first stop
before holding talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was the
DMZ, a 4-km (2.5-mile) wide buffer that cuts through the peninsula
stretching from coast to coast. Then US president Bill Clinton called it
the "scariest place on Earth" during a visit in 1993.
drawn up at the end of the 1950-53 civil conflict, which ended in a
truce that has yet to be finalized with a permanent peace treaty,
leaving the two Koreas in effect still at war.
coincided with the end of the 100-day mourning period for the North's
long-time leader, Kim Jong-il, who died in December. Tens of thousands
of people crammed into Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang to mark
Flags flew at half-mast in "every nook and corner"
of the country and sirens and whistles sounded at midday, state media
said. North Koreans "overcome with grief" observed three minutes'
The state's new young leader, Kim Jong-un, the third
member of the Kim family to rule the state, bowed before a portrait of
his father at the palace where he lies in state. He was joined by his
uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and military chief Ri Yong-ho.
Kim himself made a surprise trip to the DMZ at the start of the month.
He looked across the border through binoculars and told troops to
"maintain the maximum alertness since (they) stand in confrontation with
the enemy at all times."
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