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N. Korea ramps up tension; Park vows retaliation
Publication Date : 09-03-2013
Seoul is resolved to deal sternly with any provocations
North Korea ratcheted up tension Friday declaring it would end nonaggression pacts and an emergency hotline with the South.
In a fury over new UN sanctions and South Korea-US joint military drills, Pyongyang also threatened that its nuclear-tipped, long-range missiles are on standby.
In response, President Park Geun-hye used her first speech to military cadets to reaffirm Seoul’s resolve to deal sternly with any provocations.
North Korea has recently escalated its rhetoric including warnings of nullifying a 1953 armistice and launching a preemptive nuclear strike against aggressors.
“Soldiers are ready for a battle and only awaiting an order, while various missiles including an intercontinental ballistic missile are on standby preset for targets, equipped with lightened, miniaturised and varied nuclear warheads,” Col. Gen. Kang Pyo-yong, deputy chief of the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, was quoted as saying by the Rodong Sinmun, a propaganda organ of the North’s Workers Party.
In his speech to a mass rally in Pyongyang, Kang said the missiles will turn Washington and its allies into a “sea of fire.”
Pyongyang slammed South Korea and the US for threatening peace on the peninsula with the 10-day Key Resolve drill starting Monday and the two-month Foal Eagle training underway since the beginning of the month.
The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea also issued a statement declaring “full nullification of inter-Korean nonaggression treaties as of March 11 when the ceasefire accord becomes null.”
The two Koreas clinched the so-called Basic Agreement in 1991 to promote reconciliation, nonaggression and peaceful resolution of conflicts. The North has in the past threatened to rescind the watershed treaty when cross-border tension was heightened.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council approved its fourth set of sanctions against Pyongyang in punishment for its February 12 test of fission devices, adding three individuals, one business and one organisation to its blacklist for asset freezes and travel bans.
The newest measures also include tighter cargo inspection on airplanes and ships, and bans on lavish items such as pricey jewelry, yachts, luxury and race cars.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited an artillery unit involved in the 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island near the border, according to the state media.
During the visit, he reportedly called on troops to prepare for an “all-out war” in case of provocation.
Seoul vowed to hit back and said any atomic attack will only result in the regime’s collapse.
“If North Korea attacks South Korea with a nuclear weapon, the Kim Jong-un regime will dissipate from the earth,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a press briefing.
“Although atomic bombs were used twice in the past to end World War II, nuclear attacks on a free, democratic and happy society like South Korea will not be forgiven by mankind.”
North Korea’s 1.02 million-strong military has been conducting “particularly intense” drills by mobilising submarines, fighter jets and Special Forces, Kim added.
Park urged Pyongyang to stop raising tension in her speech at a joint commissioning ceremony for graduating military cadets at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters.
“Our current security situation is extremely grave. North Korea pushed ahead with a nuclear test and long-range missile development and is threatening to annul the Armistice Agreement,” the president said.
“I will deal strongly with North Korea’s provocations. But if North Korea takes a path of change I will actively undertake the Korean Peninsula Trust Process to build a foundation for the South and North to live peacefully and pave the way for national unification,” she said, referring to her signature policy aimed at building trust for inter-Korean reconciliation.
Earlier in the day, Cheong Wa Dae also held a meeting of senior secretaries to discuss the situation and countermeasures.
Senior foreign affairs and security secretary Ju Chul-ki presided over the session with vice minister-level officials of the defense, foreign and unification ministries and the National Intelligence Service, presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung told reporters.