Obama's Silence on N.Korea Baffles Observers

      January 26, 2012 12:56

      U.S. President Barack Obama surprised some observers by making no mention of North Korea in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. The Stalinist state has featured in one way or another in these addresses since Bill Clinton mentioned the North in January 1995 after Washington and Pyongyang signed the Geneva accords.

      "To stop and roll back North Korea's potentially deadly nuclear program, we'll continue to implement the agreement we have reached with that nation. It's smart. It's tough. It's a deal based on continuing inspection with safeguards for our allies and ourselves," Clinton said.

      Obama too mentioned the North in the last two years. In 2011 he said, "We... insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons." And a year earlier, he said, "Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions -- sanctions that are being vigorously enforced."

      But this year he focused mainly on economic issues ahead of the presidential election in November. He did, however, talk tough about Iran. "Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal."

      Pundits speculate that the U.S. is trying to get North Korea back to the negotiating table following the death of leader Kim Jong-il using a softly-softly approach.

      George W. Bush had the strongest words for Pyongyang in his State of the Union addresses. In 2002, Bush defined the North as part of an "axis of evil." In 2003, he called it an "oppressive regime" as well as an "outlaw regime." In 2004, he called it "the world's most dangerous regime."

      Only in his last address in 2008 did Bush not mention the North because an agreement reached in the six-party nuclear disarmament talks appeared to be making some progress.

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