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April 11, 2013

Obama says: US "will take all neccessary steps to protect its people"

President Obama pledged Thursday the U.S. will "take all necessary steps to protect its people" as he warned North Korea to back off its threats to expand its nuclear arsenal.

Obama's remarks came as he met in the Oval Office with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Obama said the two agreed that "now's the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they've been taking and to try to lower temperatures."

He added, "Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula. But it's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a wide variety of U.N. resolutions."

Obama said the U.S. would "continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically," but said he told the Secretary General that the U.S. would "take all necessary steps to protect its people and to meet our obligations under our alliances in the region."

The remarks were the Obama's first extensive comments on North Korea, as the administration has maintained for weeks that North Korea's actions are "reflective of a pattern of behavior" that they've seen before.

Still, Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier that Obama has been directing his national security team to take "necessary precautionary measures that will ensure that we can both defend ourselves and our allies."

Asked if Obama was deliberately taking a low key approach, Carney said Obama "has made clear through the actions of his administration and this government...the seriousness with which we take this."

Obama said the two had discussed a wide range of issues including Syria, North Korea, the Middle East, climate change and U.N. reform. He said they started with Syria, "where obviously the humanitarian crisis has gotten worse."

Obama today released $10 million in food and aid to rebels looking oust the Syrian regime.

Obama said he and Ban and he shared the view that "we are at a critical juncture" and that it's important to bring about a political transition that would respect the rights of all Syrians. In the interim, it is important to try to eliminate some of the carnage that has been taking place directed at civilians and non-combatants.

Obama said they'd strategize about how the United States -- the largest donor to humanitarian assistance in Syria -- can work together with the U.N. to bring about if not a full resolution to the crisis, at least an improvement to the people of Syria.

Ban Ki-moon described Syria as "the most troubling situation" and said he's assembled a team to conduct a chemical weapons investigation, which he said Syria has rejected for now.

Obama said the two also talked about the prospects for getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table and said the U.S. will work with the U.N. to try to move that process forward.


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Bob Rooney

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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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