Park orders extra vigilance against North attack

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Park orders extra vigilance against North attack

President Park Geun-hye ordered the Ministry of National Defense and other foreign affairs and security branches to strengthen the national security posture, according to a Blue House official, in the middle of an overseas tour.

“At times when North Korea launches propaganda offensives, we have to prepare more thoroughly for an airtight security posture in case of provocations,” Park was quoted as saying after she concluded a four-day state visit to India on Saturday, before heading to Bern, Switzerland. She meets with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter today.

Park’s order to the ministers of defense and foreign affairs to strengthen the defense posture came after North Korea last week proposed easing military tensions on the peninsula and improving inter-Korean relations. On Saturday, Pyongyang said it plans to take the first steps to follow through on its reconciliatory proposal.

“North Korea recently made a so-called important proposal and is launching its propaganda offensives,” the Blue House official said. “Historical experience shows a pattern of North Korea’s reckless military provocations toward the South following the guise of peaceful proposals.”

Last week, South Korea rejected a North demand for it to scrap joint military exercises with the United States. Seoul said that the annual war games are for self-defense, not a rehearsal for war with Pyongyang.

On Thursday, North Korea’s National Defense Commission demanded that the South stop all “provocative acts” and proposed that both sides halt “slander and insults” against each other starting Jan. 30, the first day of Korea’s Lunar New Year.

South Korea effectively turned down the proposal.

The North’s Rodong Sinmun said Saturday, “North Korea will take the first action to fulfill its proposal” to end inter-Korean tensions, without elaborating further.

If North Korea truly wants inter-Korean dialogue and peace, it should show a sincere attitude toward denuclearization, the Blue House official added. “President Park herself labeling North Korea’s proposal as a ‘propaganda offensive’ [emphasizes] there is no change in our government’s judgment that the North’s conciliatory gesture is just a pretext to build up to a military provocation.”

The South’s Defense Ministry and other analysts have pointed to a likelihood that the upcoming joint annual military drills between Seoul and Washington - called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle - may lead to more provocations from North Korea.

“It is extremely dangerous that North Korea is not heeding our family reunion proposal and launching a propaganda offensive,” the official said.

A plan to hold reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War was cancelled last year by Pyongyang.

Yesterday, North Korea criticized Washington for the annual joint military drills with Seoul slated to begin next month, calling them a “war rehearsal” and “a blatant challenge and provocation” toward Pyongyang.

[sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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