U.S. favors diplomacy to diffuse Korea tensions

U.S. President Barack Obama offered overtures Thursday to North Korea, coupled with a reiterated warning that it's time for the communist nation to stand down. "Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula," Obama said after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the Oval Office.

"We both agreed now's the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they've been taking and to try to lower temperatures." Obama said, according to pool reports. Obama added the U.S. hopes for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis. "We will continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically even, as I indicated to the secretary-general, that the United States will take all necessary steps to protect its people and to meet our obligations under our alliances in the region," Obama said.

He said it's also important for Pyongyang to abide by international rules and norms, including U.N. resolutions. The public comments marked Obama's first direct message regarding North Korea in recent weeks. In a White House press briefing earlier in the day, Obama's silence about North Korea was raised.

Obama's spokesman Jay Carney said the president has been "directing his national security team" to take all necessary measures against the North's threats. "I think that represents the fact that he is concerned about the stepped-up rhetoric and the provocative behavior by the North Korean regime," Carney said.

After a weeks-long display of firepower to counter North Korea's bellicose rhetoric, the U.S. is seen as placing more focus on reducing tensions on the peninsula. The Pentagon postponed this week's test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Minuteman III. The decision followed reports that the North has transported an intermediate-range missile to the east coast for a possible launch from a mobile facility.

The North also pulled all of its workers out of the Kaesong industrial complex, putting the joint venture with the South on its shakiest footing since its creation nine years ago. In Seoul, South Korean President Park Geun-hye informally proposed dialogue with the North. "(Our administration) will push for dialogue with North Korea," Park said in a dinner meeting Thursday with ruling party lawmakers, according to participants.

Earlier in the day, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae issued a statement calling for Pyongyang to resume inter-Korean talks. "The Koreas should discuss ways of normalizing the industrial park through dialogue. Pyongyang should come to the bargaining table immediately," said the minister in charge of Seoul's policy on Pyongyang.

Philippines News agency