White House

Obama: Willing to talk with North Korea on nukes

President Barack Obama gestures while answering questions during a joint news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.
President Barack Obama gestures while answering questions during a joint news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. AP

President Barack Obama held a news conference Friday at the White House with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Here’s the event at a glance:

The main item

Obama said the U.S. would be willing to talk with North Korea about sanctions relief and improved relations if it agreed to give up nuclear weapons. He said there’s no indication that the government in Pyongyang can “foresee a future in which they did not possess or were not pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Citing the U.S. outreach to Cuba and the agreement to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, Obama said the U.S. is “prepared to engage nations with which we have had troubled histories.” He stressed that he and Park reaffirmed that neither country would accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state and will insist that Pyongyang abide by its obligations.

“These are both countries that have a long history of antagonism towards the United States,” he said of Iran and North Korea. “But we were prepared to have a serious conversation with the Iranians once they showed that they were serious about the possibility of giving up the pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Other business

Obama decried “in the strongest possible terms” the recent violence in Israel and said its government had a right to maintain law and order and protect its citizens from attacks. He also said it was important for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding.”

Obama said he only caught part of Tuesday’s first Democratic debate because of the Major League Baseball playoffs, but that he was “very impressed” with all the candidates on stage. He declined to say whether it’s too late for Vice President Joe Biden to get into the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He also wouldn’t comment on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to oppose his effort to land a Pacific Rim trade pact that would rank as the largest in history. He said he wouldn’t comment on every candidate’s decision, “because I think that it is natural and proper for candidates to run on their own vision and their own platform.”

He said it

“There’s no meeting of the minds in terms of strategy, but my hope is that . . . Russia starts realizing that they are not going to be able to bomb their way to a peaceful situation inside of Syria, that we will be able to make progress on that front,” Obama said of U.S. efforts to convince Russia that only a political solution can resolve the war in Syria.

By the numbers

Four questions were asked.

The visit

Park arrived in Washington Tuesday on a four-day visit, capped by an Oval Office meeting and lunch with Obama in which the two discussed North Korean provocations, climate change and trade agreements. She also visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial and had lunch Thursday with Biden.   

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

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