Obama seeks thaw with Pakistan at Seoul summit

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — President Barack Obama, closing a nuclear security summit Tuesday, sought a thaw in the diplomatic chill with Pakistan, a critical but difficult U.S. partner whose nuclear weapons and historical links to terrorism make its arsenal among the world’s most vulnerable.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama smile Tuesday during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.

“There have been times — I think we should be frank — in the last several months where those relations have experienced strains,” Obama told Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Their meeting broke a four-month moratorium on direct top level contacts between the United States and Pakistan. Obama and Gilani were among more than 50 leaders who met here to reaffirm controls on nuclear material that might be bought or stolen by terrorists for a bomb. Obama headed back to Washington after the summit ended.

Pakistan is a key U.S. counterterrorism partner and its cooperation is essential for drawing down the American-led war in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, developed outside the international standards endorsed by the United States, are a principal reason the U.S. struggles to promote a stable and friendly government there.

Obama said the U.S. and Pakistan are seeking a balanced partnership that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty “but also respects our concerns with respect to our national security and our needs to battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past.”

Gilani said he was pleased by the reference to sovereignty. He did not address the sidelong reference to the bin Laden raid, which outraged Pakistanis more for its intrusion on Pakistani soil than for the revelation the 9/11 mastermind was living comfortably outside the country’s capital.

Obama’s work in South Korea focused on threats posed by North Korea and Iran, and on the ongoing bloody government crackdown in Syria. Obama used the summit to hold separate meetings with leaders of China and Russia and Turkey, players in the Iran and Syria crises. With his South Korean hosts he was especially blunt in confronting North Korea over a planned long-range rocket launch, and vowed “bad behavior” will not be rewarded with negotiations or aid.

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