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Obama Hosts South Korean President At The White House


President Obama today condemned the deadly outbreak of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He says it won't result in anything but, quote, "more hardship and more insecurity." In a White House news conference, the president urged leaders of both Israel and the Palestinians to tamp down their inflammatory rhetoric. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama repeated his long-held view that the only lasting recipe for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a two-state solution. But he acknowledged any movement in that direction has stalled, despite repeated efforts of U.S. negotiators. He defended Israel's right to protect its citizens from knife attacks and to maintain law and order. And he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to do what they can in the short-run to halt the violence that's claiming dozens of lives.


BARACK OBAMA: I don't think we can wait for all the issues that exist between Israelis and Palestinians to be settled in order for us to try to tamp down the violence right now.

HORSLEY: In neighboring Syria, Obama says the U.S. has reached a limited understanding with Russia to prevent American and Russian warplanes from accidentally running into each other while both are conducting bombing runs. But, the president says, there's been no broader meeting of the minds over strategy in Syria. Obama insists Russia's effort to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is doomed.


OBAMA: They are trying to support a regime that, in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people, is not legitimate.

HORSLEY: Obama was joined in the news conference by South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The two leaders discussed the Iranian nuclear deal and whether a similar agreement might be possible to limit North Korea's rogue nuclear program. Speaking through an interpreter, Park said North Korea has, so far, not shown the same willingness that Iran did to negotiate.


PARK GEUN-HYE: (Through interpreter) You can take a horse to the trough, but you can't make it drink water. North Korea has to come to its own conclusion that it is genuinely willing to give up nuclear capabilities.

HORSLEY: President Obama was also asked to handicap this week's Democratic presidential debate. He generally ducked the question, noting Tuesday's debate aired opposite a playoff baseball game. But he says Democrats agree on 95 percent of the issues, even though there are some key differences, both among the candidates and with his administration.


OBAMA: It is natural and proper for candidates to run on their own vision and their own platform.

HORSLEY: Obama defended his proposed Asia-Pacific Trade Deal, which Hillary Clinton came out against last week. A similar trade pact with South Korea has, so far, not produced the promised bump in U.S. exports. Obama also declined to comment on whether Vice President Biden could or should enter the presidential race at this late date. Obama says he'll leave that question to his very able vice president. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.