Lee says disunity is exactly what the North wantsSouth Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for national solidarity against military aggression by the North yesterday, saying Pyongyang looks for division in the South as an opportunity to strike.
Lee, under domestic pressure after his perceived weak response to Pyongyang, has sharpened his language after two attacks this year that raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula to the highest levels since the 1950-53 Korean War. The clashes have led some analysts to say the chance of a wider conflict is greater than ever. In the latest rhetorical sparring, the North last week threatened a nuclear “sacred war” and Lee vowed “a merciless counterattack” against any North Korean attacks.
“We can’t afford to have division of ‘you against me’ in the face of national security, because what’s at stake is our very lives and the survival of this nation,” Lee said in a national radio address.
Lee said it was divided public opinion in the wake of the North’s submarine attack on one of South Korea’s navy ships in March, killing 46 sailors, that had prompted Pyongyang to bombard a South Korean island near a disputed sea border last month. North Korea denies responsibility for the ship attack.
“It is when we show solidarity as one that the North dares not challenge us. Their will to challenge breaks,” he said.
Lee took office in 2008 and ended a decade of economic aid given to the North by his two liberal predecessors, despite previous acts of violence against the South. But he has come under criticism for being indecisive and ineffective against the North’s attacks.
Analysts said the frequency and severity of North Korea’s provocations had pushed Lee against a political wall and he had little choice but to order harsh retaliation against Pyongyang, which could spark a wider military conflict.