In a display of unity against North Korea’s provocations, President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye warned Pyongyang on Friday that it could face tougher sanctions if it follows through with threats to launch a fourth nuclear test.
Striking an even harsher tone than Obama, Park also suggested any test would trigger an undesirable nuclear arms race in the region and render further nuclear negotiations pointless.
North Korea will get “nothing except further isolation” if it proceeds with its test, Obama said at a joint news conference in Seoul. But he also acknowledged there are limits to what effects additional penalties can have on the country.
“North Korea already is the most isolated country in the world, by far,” Obama said. “Its people suffer terribly because of the decisions its leaders have made. And we are not going to find a magic bullet that solves this problem overnight.”
Still, he said, it’s important to look at new ways to pressure North Korea, including applying sanctions that have “even more bite.”
In 2009, North Korea walked away from six-party talks with the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Russia and China that offered financial incentives in exchange for denuclearization.
The White House said it was keeping close tabs on activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site. The website 38 North, which closely monitors North Korea, said commercial satellite imagery from Wednesday showed increased movement of vehicles and materials near what are believed to be entrances to two completed tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in what could be advanced preparations for an underground atomic explosion. But predicting such tests is notoriously difficult; the most crucial activity happens underground, out of aerial view.