Obama meets with Asia allies


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Obama met with the leaders of South Korea and Japan at the close of a nuclear summit on Tuesday -- tackling the nuclear ambitions of the two countries’ neighbor, North Korea.

Obama said the meeting at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in the Netherlands was the first time the three leaders had the opportunity to meet together and was partly prompted by “our shared concern about North Korea and its nuclear weapons program.”

He said close coordination between the three countries during his term in office “has succeeded in changing the game with North Korea,” sending a “strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response” and that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable.

He said the three would talk about steps to deepen the coordination in terms of diplomacy and military cooperation, including joint exercises and missile defense. Obama, who has sought to turn U.S. attention to the economic and strategically important region, will visit both countries in April.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye noted that “given the increasingly uncertain developments in North Korea,” there’s a need for three countries to talk.

“The North Korean nuclear issue poses a major threat to peace and stability in the region, and it is vital that the international community, including Korea, the U.S. and Japan, fashion a united response,” she said.

Obama last fall had to cancel a trip to Asia due to budget battles at home and plans to visit there next month. The administration’s push to turn to Asia – dubbed the Asia pivot – already had been questioned in the region amid worries that U.S. budget woes and continuing turmoil in the Middle East would sap U.S. commitment to the countries that share the region with an increasingly assertive China.

Obama met his first day in Europe with China’s president, pledging to cooperate in areas where they could.

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