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US warns it will defend South Korea -

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US warns it will defend South Korea

The World Today - Wednesday, 17 June , 2009 12:30:00

Reporter: Kim Landers

PETER CAVE: The United States says that North Korea should have no doubt that it will defend South
Korea against any potential attacks.

Just days after the United Nations passed new sanctions against Pyongyang, President Barack Obama
met at the White House with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak.

President Obama has declared North Korea a "grave threat" to the world and is warning the reclusive
regime that there will be no more rewards for bad behaviour.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: With South Korea's President at his side, Barack Obama is warning that North Korea is
a "grave threat", a regime which can't be allowed to keep its nuclear weapons.

BARACK OBAMA: Given their past behaviour, given the belligerent manner in which they're constantly
threatening their neighbours, I don't think there's any question that that would be a destabilising
situation that would be a profound threat to not only United States' security but world security.

KIM LANDERS: And he says it's up to the international community to follow through on a recent UN
Security Council resolution which imposes tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.

BARACK OBAMA: Belligerent, provocative behaviour that threatens neighbours will be met with
significant, serious enforcement of sanctions that are in place.

KIM LANDERS: Barack Obama is vowing to end a cycle of allowing Pyongyang to create a crisis and
then be rewarded with incentives to back down.

He says it's a pattern that the reclusive regime expects, and that the US and its allies is going
to break that pattern.

As the standoff with North Korea escalates, South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak came to
Washington for an assurance that Seoul is under the US security umbrella. He got it.

BARACK OBAMA: We have reaffirmed the endurance of our alliance and America's commitment to the
defence of the Republic of Korea.

KIM LANDERS: When South Korea's President Lee was asked by a reporter whether he believes his
country is under the threat of an attack from the North, he instantly referred to Seoul's security
relationship with Washington.

LEE MYUNG-BAK (translated): And North Koreans when they look at the firm partnership and alliance
we have between our two countries, they will think twice about taking any measures that they will
regret. And again, this very firm alliance that we have between the United States and Korea is
going to prevent anything from happening.

KIM LANDERS: President Lee says his country, along with the US, Japan, China and Russia, will seek
new measures to compel the North to dismantle all of its nuclear weapons programs.

The White House won't expand on what those new measures are but it's clear that Washington and
Seoul are eager to show North Korea that they're united and they're determined not to back down.

Bruce Klingner is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who spent 20 years as a Korea
analyst for the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency.

BRUCE KLINGER: From the US point of view the assurances have always been there. The US is committed
to defending South Korea by treaty and as part of that it would include the full range of
capabilities to cover the full range of potential scenarios of North Korean provocation or
aggression. But South Korea may have been feeling that it wanted a more definitive agreement, so
from the US point of view we might have seen it as unnecessary but clearly wanting to reassure our
ally.

KIM LANDERS: The US is worried not only about North Korea's nuclear capability but its
proliferation efforts too.

Bruce Klingner says American allies like Australia could help.

BRUCE KLINGER: Australia's military could play a role in enforcing the Proliferation Security
Initiative for interceding in any cases where North Korean ships may be thought to be engaged in
proliferating WMD or missiles.

KIM LANDERS: So you mean you would like to see perhaps Australian naval vessels join some sort of
blockade or interdiction regime?

BRUCE KLINGER: Right. It wouldn't be a blockade if the Proliferation Security Initiative is only
applied when there is credible intelligence that North Korea is about to try to export or
proliferate weapons of mass destruction missiles or the technology.

So for the US and its allies, particularly those with strong military such as South Korea and Japan
and Australia, they have greater capabilities than many of the other nations in the region. So they
could be used in those cases where we think interdiction is necessary. In those cases where we
think North Korea is trying to proliferate something.

KIM LANDERS: Pentagon officials say if North Korea keeps ramping up its weapons systems, its
missiles could reach parts of the United States as soon as three years from now.

William Lynn is the Deputy Defence Secretary.

WILLIAM LYNN: We think it ultimately could if it's taken to its conclusion, it could present a
threat to the US homeland.

KIM LANDERS: But he's also told a Senate hearing on missile defence that the US has enough missile
interceptors should North Korea launch an attack.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.