Park promises swift vengeance if North fires missile at South

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Park promises swift vengeance if North fires missile at South

President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday vowed to “annihilate” the North Korean regime if it fires a nuclear missile at the South.

Park hosted a routine cabinet meeting at the Blue House in the morning and issued a lengthy opening remark concerning the North’s latest nuclear test and the South’s plan to counter it. North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Friday, the second in this year, following a series of missile firings over the past months.

“The government and the military must maintain closer cooperation with the United States,” Park said. “The military must stay ready to launch a counterattack with the firm determination that it will annihilate the North Korean regime the very second the North fires even a single nuclear missile toward the South.”

She stressed that the South must be ready for North Korea’s growing nuclear threats. She also vowed to push forward the U.S. deployment of a powerful antimissile system, criticizing protesters for leaving the people’s lives and safety exposed to the North’s provocations.

Park has repeatedly defended the decision to place the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Korea, facing opposition not only from the liberal opposition parties but also China and Russia.

“If we recant the decision now,” Park said, “I wonder with what we can defend our country’s security amid the North’s nuclear and missile tests. As the president of the Republic of Korea, I will do everything to defend the country and the people.”

She also urged the nation to be united in countering the North.

“If we fail to show unity due to internal strife, no defense system will have meaning,” she said. “Now is the time to use all national capabilities to make the North give up its nuclear arms by showing unity and putting together the people’s power and wisdom.”

During this week’s Chuseok holiday, Park scheduled no official event to attend.

“Because Park ordered us [on Friday] to consider the situation as a national emergency,” Presidential Spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said, “the Blue House will operate under an emergency system.”

Park will likely push forward her security initiative after the Chuseok holiday. In her meeting with the heads of the ruling and opposition parties, Park made clear that she will not budge on security issues. Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae of the Minjoo Party of Korea and acting head of the People’s Party Park Jie-won urged Park to reconsider the Thaad deployment and initiate a dialogue with Pyongyang by sending an envoy, but Park flatly rejected the proposals.

“Because it is imminent that the North will operationally deploy nuclear arms,” said a Park associate, “Park appeared to decide that she won’t waste energy with the opposition parties and will just push forward her security agendas.”

“The opposition parties seemed to have a lingering attachment to the idea of dialogue with the North, but Park has no expectation when it comes to Kim Jong-un,” a presidential aide said. “Even if the opposition outnumbers the ruling party in the National Assembly, Park will persist with her security policy.”

A Saenuri lawmaker loyal to Park said the meeting, originally scheduled for after Chuseok, was advanced because she wants to create a framework that she will control. “Even if some national projects will be disrupted due to the opposition’s protests,” he said, “Park wants to drive home her security policy.”

The possibility of confrontation is high. “When the government announces the standard for the state-controlled history textbooks in November, the opposition will fiercely attack the administration,” a senior government official said. “We are worried whether the National Assembly will operate without paralysis.”

Park is unlikely to seek a detour, Park aides said. “Her stance won’t change,” a presidential official said, “regardless of the political gain or loss.”

BY SER MYO-JA, KIM JUNG-HA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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