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Obama urges NKorea to pursue peace

In a direct challenge to North Korean leaders, President Barack Obama has implored them "to have the courage to pursue peace" while warning of the wrath of the world if they do not.

Failure, he said, would mean a future without dignity, respect or hope for its people. Mr Obama stood by his pledge for a globe without nuclear weapons, declaring flatly that the United States has more than it needs and can cut its arsenal without weakening its security or that of its allies.

That assessment put him on a collision course with congressional Republicans who say any significant cuts would undermine the US ability to deter aggression.

In unusually personal terms, Mr Obama said he spoke of his wish for further nuclear reductions as the president of the only nation ever to used nuclear weapons, as a commander whose country's nuclear codes are never far from his side, and as a protective father eager to erase the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Mr Obama and other world leaders are in Seoul for a major international nuclear security summit. The US leader plans to meet on the sidelines of the summit with several heads of government, including Russian and Chinese leaders.

Mr Obama spoke most directly to North Korea's leaders, saying the internationally isolated country needs to change its ways because continuing down the same path will lead to "more broken dreams" and "more isolation".

His blunt remarks came a day after he visited the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea and described the experience as akin to witnessing a "time warp" of despair.

"By now it should be clear," he said. "Your provocations and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not achieved the security you seek, they have undermined it. Instead of the dignity you desire, you are more isolated."

Mr Obama also reiterated his warning to Iran, which the US and its allies contend is defying its international obligations by pursuing an illicit nuclear program. Mr Obama said he would discuss Iran in meetings later in the day with the leaders of Russia and China.

"Iran's leaders must understand that there is no escaping the choice before it. Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands," Mr Obama said. "Iran must meet its obligations."

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