Clinton likens North Korea to unruly children

WASHINGTON Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:49pm EDT

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacts before addressing India's students and university officials during a function at a university campus in New Delhi, July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacts before addressing India's students and university officials during a function at a university campus in New Delhi, July 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Fayaz Kabli

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea should not receive the attention it is seeking through behavior like missile launches and likened Pyongyang's behavior to that of unruly children.

North Korea tested a nuclear device in May and fired seven ballistic missiles earlier this month in defiance of a U.N. resolution.

"What we've seen is this constant demand for attention," Clinton, who is in India, said in an interview that aired on Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"And maybe it's the mother in me or the experience that I've had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention -- don't give it to them, they don't deserve it, they are acting out," she said.

Clinton also downplayed the threat that North Korea poses to the United States, saying: "They don't pose a threat to us. We know that our allies, Japan and South Korea, are very concerned."

Asked to elaborate on her remarks, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said North Korea "represents an infinitesimal threat to the United States directly."

"But clearly North Korea, and particularly its provocative actions, does represent a significant threat to the region. And its actions recently have been unhelpful, potentially destabilizing," he told reporters.

Crowley said the United States remained committed to working with North Korea's neighbors to bring North Korea back to long-stalled negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

Clinton said her comment earlier this month that "everyone is very sorry" about an incident that resulted in North Korea detaining two U.S. journalists was a recognition of what the two women themselves have said.

"Our most important goal now is to make sure that these young women get home safely and get returned to their families," Clinton said.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee of the U.S. media group Current TV were arrested in March near the China-North Korea border, convicted of "great crimes," and sentenced to 12 years hard labor.

(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Eric Beech)