Obama bypasses N. Korea in U.N. speech

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- Addressing the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama clearly showed his top priorities on the diplomatic front.

North Korea is not among them. In his 40-minute televised speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York, he made no mention of the communist nation armed with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

He didn't even touch on Asia, despite his signature foreign policy of rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region. In contrast, Obama used the word "Iran" or "Iranian" 26 times and "Syria" or "Syrian" 18 times.

He called for a unified and responsible reaction to the Syrian dictatorship's recent use of chemical weapons.

Obama also put an emphasis on Washington's vision for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, along with the Middle East peace talks.

"In the near term, America's diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict," he said.

In particular, the president noted the signs that the new Iranian government is seeking diplomacy on the nation's nuclear program.

"The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," Obama said.

Observers said Obama's U.N. speech reflects a grim diplomatic reality -- his administration has no way out of the Middle East.

U.S. officials, privately speaking to reporters, admit there is a realistic strategy to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. They say the so-called management strategy holds true.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, drew a line between North Korea and Iran, saying Pyongyang has crossed a "threshold." He pointed out North Korea has already developed nuclear weapons, with three known underground tests.

The White House later stated that Rhodes' comments do not mean Washington regards Pyongyang as a nuclear state.

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