A massive meeting over North

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A massive meeting over North

Amid growing concerns of renewed armed provocations by North Korea, a massive meeting attended by President Lee Myung-bak, cabinet members, senior military and police officials as well as mayors and governors took place yesterday to review the country’s readiness against any Pyongyang hostilities.

The meeting, attended by 220 senior members of the central and local governments and the military, came after the two deadly attacks by North Korea last year. The participants discussed the country’s defense posture in the radically changed security environment of the peninsula following the attacks, along with the latest concerns on Pyongyang’s military brinkmanship using its nuclear and missile programs. “Taking into consideration the situation North Korea is in now, there is a possibility for more armed provocations by the North, so we must be perfectly prepared,” said Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik at the beginning of the meeting. “Only solidified security can guarantee survival and a prosperous future.”

Kim also said the Cheonan’s sinking and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island served as a bitter reminder to confront South Korea’s security reality.

Lee also urged South Koreans to unite against the North’s provocation. “Strong security awareness is not to facilitate confrontation,” he said. “It is to deter the North’s provocations.”

Concerns of North Korea’s provocations have grown recently, including this week’s media reports that the country appears close to finishing a second launch site for long-range missiles. In Washington, a top U.S. military official said the North may stage more attacks within months, but said there was no sign of an imminent missile firing.

“This is a major concern of ours,” Navy Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said of the North’s long-range missile capability at a forum hosted by the Asia Society. “When you package that together with the provocative actions that we saw in 2010, and the complexities of succession that are currently ongoing in North Korea, we may very well be facing the next provocation in months and not years,” said Willard, who heads the 300,000-strong American troops in the Pacific region. He also warned the North that it will face strong reaction from the United States and South Korea if it stages additional attacks.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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