TOKYO: US President Barack Obama will encounter a nation mourning one of its worst maritime disasters and on edge over North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship Friday when he flies to South Korea.
The trip to Seoul was once billed as a routine, informal stop to catch up with old friends, but took on poignant overtones after the sinking of a ferry packed with high school students last week.
US intelligence agencies meanwhile are watching and waiting amid indications that North Korea could rattle the peninsula with a fourth nuclear test, in a clear challenge to Obama’s strategy of cementing America’s role as a Pacific power.
Obama will fly to Seoul from Tokyo, where he warned on the first stop of an Asian tour that China must play a “critically important” role in reining in its nominal ally in Pyongyang.
“North Korea has engaged in provocative actions for the last several decades.
“It’s been an irresponsible actor on the international stage for the last several decades,” he said.
“They are the most isolated country in the world. They are subject to more international sanctions and international condemnation than any country in the world.”