President Obama on Tuesday said North Korea's recent spate of provocations, which have included a nuclear test and withdrawal from nonaggression pacts, will not be rewarded, Reuters reported.
"If Pyongyang thought its recent threats would drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States or somehow garner the North international respect, today is further evidence that North Korea has failed again," the U.S. leader said at a joint media appearance with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The two leaders focused on the North Korean nuclear impasse during a summit in Washington. "President Park and myself very much share the view that we are going to maintain a strong deterrent, we're not going to reward provocative behavior, but we remain open to the prospect of North Korea taking a peaceful path," Obama stated.
In recent days, Pyongyang appears to have dialed back its aggressive posture, according to the Pentagon. The North Korean military no longer appears to be at the highest combat alert level and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that were deployed on the country's east coast and primed for firing have been withdrawn from sight.
Park said it is not easy to decipher the North's intentions. "Why is North Korea appearing to de-escalate its threats and provocations? There is no knowing for sure," she was quoted by a translator as saying at the news conference.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said withdrawal of the North's Musudan missiles would be a positive sign, Reuters separately reported.
"I think the lull is mostly about tone, and the trajectory hasn't changed at all. There may [be] a Musudan launch soon; they are chugging ahead," Center for Strategic and International Studies Korea expert Michael Green told the New York Times.
Park has signaled her readiness to engage with Pyongyang on matters other than denuclearization. However, the North might not be interested in inter-Korean engagement if it does not involve the United States, according to former State Department official Joel Wit.
"If there is no nuclear component to it, or a security component, then I doubt if the North Koreans are going to be responsive. Without active U.S. participation on the security issues, it's not going to get very far."