As the White House weighs its options for addressing ongoing violence in Syria, President Obama warned Tuesday there are no "easy answers" to be found, and insisted he has no intent of taking actions based on unconfirmed perceptions about the situation at hand.
Mr. Obama, speaking at a press conference alongside South Korean President Park Guen-hye, argued that while "there's a desire for easy answers," that's "not the situation there."
"I think there would be a severe cost in doing nothing. That's why we're not doing nothing," he said.
Mr. Obama reiterated that the U.S. has "been active in trying to ensure that [Syrian President] Bashir Assad exits the stage and that we can begin a political transition process."
"That's the reason why we have invested so much in humanitarian aid," he said. "That's why we are now providing non-lethal assistance."
The president acknowledged evidence suggesting that chemical weapons were recently used in the Syrian conflict, but he refused to say any "red line" has been crossed that would mandate ramping up U.S. actions.
"You suggested even in your question a perceived crossing of a red line," Mr. Obama said, responding to a reporter who questioned the South Korean president on her faith in Mr. Obama's commitment to his promises. "There has been the use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, but I don't make decisions based on 'perceived' and I can't organize international coalitions based on 'perceived.'"
"We tried that in the past, by the way, and it didn't work out well," he added, apparently referencing faulty intelligence that led the United States into the Iraq War.
"My job is to constantly measure our very real and legitimate humanitarian and national security interests in Syria, but measuring those against my bottom line, which is what's in the best interests of America's security and making sure that I'm making decisions not based on a hope and a prayer, but on hard-headed analysis in terms of what will actually make us safer and stabilize the region," he said.
Addressing recent provocations from North Korea, Mr. Obama said that when it comes to dealing with threats, he has pledged "we will be prepared for deterrence; that we will respond to aggression; that we will not reward provocative actions."
But he also said "the days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions, those days are over," and that if North Korean leadership decided to take "a different path" in its approach to its global positioning, he, Park, and the international community "would welcome it."
"But there's gonna have to be changes in behavior," Mr. Obama said. "You know, we have an expression in English, you know, don't worry about what I say, watch what I do. And we're -- so far at least, we haven't seen actions on the part of the North Koreans that would indicate they're prepared to move in a different direction."