PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as I said earlier in response to one of your American counterparts’ questions, the United States and I don’t have the luxury of choosing just one problem at a time. So the North Korea situation is of direct concern to us not only because it threatens our key allies in the region, the Republic of Korea and Japan, but it also poses a direct threat to us. Some of the missile technology that’s being developed, the nuclear weapons that are being developed in North Korea when matched up with a thoroughly irresponsible foreign policy and a provocative approach by the North Korean regime poses a threat to the United States. And so we can’t waver in our attention. We have to make sure that in strong concert with our allies, that we are continuing to press on North Korea to change its approach.
Now, in terms of what the United States believes is going to be most effective, we’ve been very consistent over the last five years. We don’t reward bad behavior. We don’t go through a constant cycle in which provocative actions by North Korea result in dialogue that leads nowhere and concessions to the North Koreans.
And we have also been consistent in saying that if North Korea is serious about talks, here are the specific steps that we can begin to take. Denuclearization has to be on the table. There has to be a discussion about how we are going to remove a key threat not only to the region, but also to the world because North Korea is also one of the principal proliferators of dangerous weapons around the world.
So far, at least, we have not gotten a positive response from North Korea on that front. What’s been encouraging is the degree to which China -- partly because of consultations with President Xi and Madam President Park, conversations between myself and President Xi and others -- China is beginning to recognize that North Korea is not just a nuisance, this is a significant problem to their own security. And we’ve encouraged them to exert greater influence over North Korea because China has the most significant effect on North Korean calculations.
President Park and I agree that in light of what we expect to be further provocative actions from the North Koreans, whether in the form of long-range missile tests, or nuclear tests, or both, that it’s important for us to look at additional ways to apply pressure on North Korea, further sanctions that have even more bite, as well as highlighting some of the human rights violations that make North Korea probably the worst human rights violator in the world.
It is also important for us to recognize, however, that North Korea is already the most isolated country in the world by far. Its people suffer terribly because of the decisions that its leaders have made. And we are not going to find a magic bullet that solves this problem overnight. What we’re going to have to do is to continue with a consistent, steady approach. And the single most important thing is making sure that there’s strong unity of effort between ourselves, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other like-minded countries in the region. We have to present a strong, forceful alliance and we have to prepare for any eventuality while still opening the prospect for a negotiated resolution to this longstanding conflict.
With respect to some of the other issues in East Asia, the United States’ position has been clear and consistent throughout. We consider ourselves a Asia Pacific power. We don’t have a stake in the specific claims that have caused some of these disputes. We’re not parties to the disputes over the Senkaku Islands, for example. Our primary interest is making sure that international norms and rule of law are upheld and that disputes of this sort are resolved through peaceful, diplomatic means. And we will continue to encourage all the parties concerned -- whether it’s Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, or with respect to disputes in the South China Sea -- to use the law and diplomacy to resolve these disputes.
And my message to China has consistently been that although clearly there are going to be differences between ourselves and China on certain issues, there are also enormous areas of cooperation. We’re not interested in containing China; we’re interested in China’s peaceful rise and it being a responsible and powerful proponent of the rule of law and an international system. In that role, it has to abide by certain norms. Large countries have to abide by rules perhaps even more than small countries because when we don’t, it worries people. And we want to move away from a system in which might alone makes right.
So we’ll continue to encourage all parties concerned to take steps to resort to international norms and rule of law. We've been encouraging ASEAN and China, for example, to come up with a code of conduct that can resolve some of these maritime disputes. We will make sure that freedom of navigation and other principles that have underwritten the prosperity of the Asia Pacific region and the growth in trade and commerce of this region continue and we’ll continue to project ourselves in the Pacific to ensure that that continues.
Finally, with respect to the historical tensions between South Korea and Japan, I think that any of us who look back on the history of what happened to the comfort women here in South Korea, for example, have to recognize that this was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that, even in the midst of war, was shocking. And they deserve to be heard; they deserve to be respected; and there should be an accurate and clear account of what happened.
I think Prime Minister Abe recognizes, and certainly the Japanese people recognize, that the past is something that has to be recognized honestly and fairly. But I also think that it is in the interest of both Japan and the Korean people to look forward as well as backwards and to find ways in which the heartache and the pain of the past can be resolved, because, as has been said before, the interests today of the Korean and Japanese people so clearly converge. They’re both democracies. You both have thriving free markets. Both are cornerstones of a booming economic region. Both are strong allies and friends of the United States. And so when you think about the young people of the Republic of Korea and Japan, my hope would be that we can honestly resolve some of these past tensions, but also keep our eye on the future and the possibilities of peace and prosperity for all people.
That’s one of the most important lessons I think from the horrors of war, is being able to look back and learn lessons that allow people to avoid war in the future.