President Barack Obama during Tuesday's joint press conference. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
At a joint White House news conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye, President Barack Obama discussed issues ranging from sexual assault in the U.S. military to North Korea's security threats.
Tuesday's press conference followed a private lunch and meeting with the president, Vice President Joe Biden and Park, South Korea's first female president. The visit occurs as the U.S. and South Korea mark their 60-year alliance.
Asked by a reporter about a new Department of Defense report noting a sexual assault epidemic in the military—as well as the recent arrest of the Air Force's head of sexual assault prevention—Obama issued a harsh condemnation.
"I have no tolerance for this. ... If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they're going to be held accountable—prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It's not acceptable," Obama said.
The president conceded that sexual assault in the military "is not a new phenomenon" and that the military has been promoting ways to allow for more accurate reporting of incidents. But, Obama said, he communicated to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Tuesday morning the need to "exponentially step up our game."
"We have to do everything we can to root this out," he said, and noted that those affected should understand he's "got their backs."
Several scandals involving sexual assault within the military have recently made headlines, including Monday's news that Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, was arrested over the weekend for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot.
Of course, much of the press conference was directed toward the U.S.'s relationship with South Korea, with topics including economic issues, trade and North Korea.
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