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Stop missile tests or we will end food aid, Obama tells North Korea

The United States threatened to withdraw its offer of food aid from North Korea in exchange for the suspension of nuclear and missile tests and uranium enrichment.

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Stop missile tests or we will end food aid, Obama tells North Korea
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A deal to bring North Korea in from the cold began unravelling yesterday (Sunday) as the United States threatened to withdraw its offer of food aid in exchange for the suspension of nuclear and missile tests and uranium enrichment.

After standing at the edge of the demilitarised zone that separates South and North Korea, and staring into the hermit kingdom through a pair of long-range binoculars, President Barack Obama warned Pyongyang not to go ahead with a missile launch planned for mid-April in breach of United Nations sanctions.

"Bad behaviour will not be rewarded," he said, adding that it would be hard to go ahead with the delivery of 240,000 tons of badly needed food if the North fired its rocket.

"We have indicated to them very directly, because this was part of discussions that had taken place among negotiators, that it would be difficult to move forward with that package. That is just one example of the kinds of consequence that will take place," he said.

"I will also note that every time North Korea has violated an international resolution, the Security Council resolution, it has resulted in further isolation, tightening of sanctions, stronger enforcement. I suspect that will happen this time as well."

North Korea has said it wants to launch a satellite with the missile, in order to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the state's founder and eternal leader, Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang is devoting huge resources to the anniversary and is unlikely to be cowed into backing away from the launch, despite strong opposition from the US and from Japan, which has said it is considering whether or not to shoot down the rocket.

The North Korean military has already transported the main body of the rocket to a site in the far north west of the country in preparation.

It said it would fire the missile at some point from April 12 to 16.

The latest food deal was struck less than a month ago after direct talks between the US and North Korea. It is not clear if any food has been shipped - two weeks ago, the two sides were still finalising the logistics.

At the time of the deal, the US hailed it as a breakthrough and said it could be the first step on the road to reconciliation. Those hopes now appear to have been dashed, once again.

"It shows yet again that North Korea is profoundly unserious about the commitments it makes to limit, suspend or abandon its nuclear or ballistic missile programs," John Bolton, America's former ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in the New York Post.

Obama was in South Korea ahead of a 53-nation Nuclear Security Summit that will open today. Iran, Syria and North Korea are all likely to be on the agenda, although the North has said that any reference to its nuclear programme in a communique from the summit will be regarded as "a declaration of war".

China has urged the summit - at which Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister is representing Britain - not to stray off topic by discussing North Korea.

But Obama said Beijing had to reconsider its continual appeasement of the rogue state. "My suggestion to China is that how they communicate their concerns to North Korea should probably reflect the fact that the approach they have taken over the last several decades has not led to a fundamental shift in North Korea's behaviour," he said.

Earlier in the day, Obama visited American soldiers guarding the border between the two countries and told them that they were at "freedom's frontier".

Obama, who was making the first visit by a US president since George W Bush in 2002, said that staring into North Korea was like looking into a "time warp".

Asked about Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be aged 27 or 28, he said it was unclear how much control he had over his country.

"It is not clear who is calling the shots in North Korea," Obama said.

Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father, Kim Jong-il, at the end of last year, has spent much of his time visiting the North Korean army, perhaps trying to shore up the military's support. Yesterday he attended ceremonies in Pyongyang to mark the end of the 100-day mourning period for his father.

Meanwhile, to mark the opening of the summit, a 42lb consignment of enriched uranium, large enough to make a nuclear weapon, was transported from Ukraine to Russia. It was the final shipment of a two-year programme to denuclearise the former Soviet state that has seen more than 440lb removed from Ukraine and reprocessed.

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