Park tells military to be alert to North’s missilesRemarking on a series of missile and rocket firings by North Korea over the past month, President Park Geun-hye said Pyongyang is continuing to behave “in an unpredictable way” during a luncheon yesterday with nearly 140 top military officials at the Blue House in Seoul.
The president told the officials to respond quickly and forcefully to any military provocation, although she pointed out that the rocket firings coincided with conciliatory gestures, including talks on sending North Korean cheerleaders to the Asian Games in September in Incheon.
“North Korea will dare not to think about attacking us if it is aware of massive consequences it will face if it prepares for war or provokes [us] instead of trying to improve the living conditions of North Korean citizens,” said Park.
She added that she “entirely trusts the judgment of the [South Korean] military.”
Park’s remarks seemed to be approval in advance for swift retaliation if North Korea makes any attack, without the need for approval from the Blue House.
Newly appointed National Defense Minister Han Min-koo and presidential security advisor Kim Kwan-jin, a former Defense Minister, attended the event along with officials from the United States Forces Korea.
Park’s strongly-worded remarks yesterday came after Pyongyang conducted a number of missile launches and live-fire drills over the last month.
During its most recent live-fire drill Monday at an eastern frontline unit in Kangwon Province, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the unit in person and supervised the drill. The North’s army launched about 100 artillery shells and rockets.
The North’s official mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun carried photos of the young Kim Tuesday supervising Monday’s drill with binoculars.
It is speculated that the North’s drills are in protest of an ongoing joint South Korea-U.S. naval exercise in southwestern and eastern waters. Pyongyang seemed particularly irritated at the participation of America’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the drill.
Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang’s state media, on Saturday called the presence of the powerful carrier in South Korean waters “the U.S.’s provocative move to bring the ominous cloud of nuclear war” on the Korean Peninsula.
The allies’ joint maritime exercise involves two South Korean Navy Aegis-level warships and two U.S. Navy battle cruisers and one Aegis-class warship, according to the South Korean Navy.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]