U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in South Korea, where he is expected to show solidarity with the country's president in demanding North Korea move toward ending its nuclear weapons programs.
As he departed China for South Korea Wednesday, President Obama took another opportunity to urge North Korea to reach an agreement on its nuclear weapons.
"North Korea has a choice. It can continue down the path of confrontation and provocation that has led to less security, less prosperity and more isolation from the global community," President Obama said. "Or it can choose to become a full member of the international community, which will give a better life to its people by living up to international obligations and foregoing nuclear weapons."
The president landed at a U.S. air base Wednesday evening, and is to hold talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Thursday here in the South Korean capital.
South Korea and the United States are trying to coax the North back to six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons. President Obama has indicated he will send an envoy to Pyongyang before the end of the year for one-on-one discussions, but only in the context of restarting the multinational process.
Apart from the nuclear issue, Mr. Obama's visit is seen as fairly routine. Scott Snyder is the director of the Center for U.S. Korea Policy.
"Frankly, the relationship is in pretty good health right now, so there aren't necessarily any real burning issues," Snyder said. "They'll coordinate on North Korea, they'll talk about other issues in the alliance. President Obama will thank South Korea for its contributions to Afghanistan."
The run-up to President Obama's arrival here in Seoul has been relatively free of protests.
However, a group of North Korean human rights advocates called on Mr. Obama Wednesday to speak out more forcefully against the North's abuses. Tim Peters, a leader of the demonstration, says Mr. Obama has spoken too softly on North Korean human rights while focusing on security and economic matters.
"Mr. President, your voice is desperately needed!" Peters said.
Human rights activists want more U.S. pressure on China to stop sending North Korean refugees home against their will, where they may face severe punishment or execution.