April 25th, 2014
08:17 AM ET
3 months ago

Five take-aways from President Obama's news conference in Seoul

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - President Obama will speak with key European leaders about the crisis in Ukraine Friday. But earlier in the day at a joint news conference with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, Obama acknowledged the sanctions against Russia put in place by the U.S. and its allies may not ultimately change Vladimir Putin's calculus.

"I think that's self-apparent," Obama said when asked if the Russian president may simply remain unresponsive to the economic pressure.

Here are four other take-aways from the news conference in Seoul.

Obama gets personal on South Korea ferry tragedy

Reflecting on the ferry disaster in South Korea that is likely to claim hundreds of lives, including dozens of young victims who attended a school outside Seoul, Obama addressed the accident as both a president and a parent.

"I'm a father of two daughters of the same age or close to the same age as those who are lost, and so, I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point," Obama said at the news conference.

As a gesture of condolences from the U.S., the President offered the South Korean leader a magnolia tree from the grounds of the White House and an American flag. The flag was flying over the White House on the day of the ferry tragedy.

Getting tough on North Korea

While the President was less than confident sanctions are having an effect on Putin, Obama did raise the idea of tightening the economic penalties on North Korea over its recent threats of conducting another nuclear test.

Obama said it may be time for sanctions that "have even more bite."

"We don't want to go through a constant cycle in which proactive actions by North Korea result in dialogue that leads nowhere and concessions to the North Koreans," Obama added.

May be time for a time-out in Middle East peace talks

In response to Israel's decision to suspend its peace talks with the Palestinians, Obama said both sides may simply need to take a pause in their discussions until they are ready to make major political concessions to achieve a lasting peace.

"This is a problem that's been going on for 60, 70, 80 years," Obama added. "We didn't anticipate we were going to solve it in the course of a 6 or 9 month negotiation," he said about his administration's efforts to reach a framework agreement with the Israelis and Palestinians.

The President also defended his secretary of state's numerous attempts to work out a settlement, saying "I make no apologies for supporting Secretary of State Kerry's efforts, tireless efforts, despite long odds, to keep on trying to bring the parties together."

South Korean "comfort women" deserve respect

The President also weighed in on one of Asia's most bitter memories, Japan's abuse of South Korean "comfort women" during World War Two.

Urging both South Korea and Japan to move forward after decades of animosity over the issue, Obama called for a clear historical account of what happened to the women who were once used as sex slaves by the Japanese military, a practice the president called "shocking" even in a time of war.


Filed under: Middle East • North Korea • President Obama • South Korea • Ukraine
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Claude

    Clearly Obama is in a no-win situation regarding Ukraine. On one hand, he can't just allow Putin to get away with an uncontested land grab. On the other hand, according to the principles of self determination, the eastern half of Ukraine really should be allowed to side with Russia, while the western half should be allowed to gravitate to the EU and NATO.

    April 25, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Putin. Pres. Romney would have already started World War III by now. Don't blame him, though. The right wing media would have egged him on to do it. After all, Mitt has that "seriously conservative" reputation to live up to. All of which makes me glad that we do not have a Pres. Romney.

    Why am I blasting Mitt Romney? It's simple. He doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut on this issue. He's fair game.

    April 25, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. smith

    Obama should have learned a lesson after Egypt and Libya. This business of starting or supporting coups in other countries needs to stop. Putin is a ghoul that wants to bring back the old days of Russia. The best thing to do is to walk away from this mess because we can`t do anything about it anyway.

    April 25, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  4. ProudDem

    With the credit downgrade that Russia got today, things may ramp up a bit. Putin is way too stubborn to bow to sanctions, but it's possible the rich around him might stage some sort of political coup. I agree though that we are VERY lucky to have Obama in the White House...Pres McCain would have had us in 3 or 4 conflicts around the world at this point.

    April 25, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  5. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Putin. Pres. Romney would have already started World War III by now. Don't blame him, though. The right wing media would have egged him on to do it. After all, Mitt has that "seriously conservative" reputation to live up to. All of which makes me glad that we do not have a Pres. Romney.

    Why am I blasting Mitt Romney? It's simple. He doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut on this issue. He's fair game.
    --------
    Sure... but everything you opine is pure projection.

    April 25, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |