Park calls on DPRK to abandon nuclear arms
Updated: 2013-03-27 11:00
ROK president tells Pyongyang to choose only 'path to survive'
Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye warned Pyongyang on Tuesday that its only "path to survival" lies in abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.
In a speech marking the third anniversary of the sinking of an ROK naval vessel by what Seoul insists was a Democratic People's Republic of Korea submarine, Park called on Pyongyang to "change course" at a time of elevated military tension.
"For Pyongyang, the only path to survival lies in stopping provocations and threats, abandoning its nuclear weaponry and missiles, and becoming a responsible member of the international community," Park said.
She delivered the speech at the national cemetery in Daejeon where the 46 sailors who died when the Cheonan corvette sank are buried.
The DPRK has denied involvement in the incident, which triggered a freeze in its relations with Seoul.
"Even now, Pyongyang is threatening our national security," Park said, citing the DPRK's successful long-range rocket test in December and the third nuclear test it carried out last month.
Both events triggered UN sanctions that infuriated the DPRK, which has spent the past month issuing dire threats about unleashing "all-out war" backed by nuclear weapons.
Saber rattling and displays of brinkmanship are nothing new in the region, but there are concerns that the situation is so volatile that one accidental step could escalate into serious confrontation and conflict, AFP reported.
Bruce Klingner, an expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the "risk of miscalculation and escalation" is heightened by the presence of new leaders of the two countries.
Kim Jong-un succeeded his late father, Kim Jong-il, as DPRK supreme leader just more than a year ago, while Park was sworn in last month.
Park campaigned on a pledge of greater engagement with Pyongyang, but February's nuclear test put any rapprochement on indefinite hold.
Meanwhile, Kim has spent the past few weeks touring frontline military units, monitoring live-fire artillery drills and drone strikes.
On the eve of the Cheonan sinking anniversary, Kim oversaw joint army and navy exercises to repel an amphibious landing along the eastern coast.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported, "Kim stressed the need to destroy the enemies in waters to the last man ... and send all of them to the bottom of the sea as they run wild like wolves threatened with fire."
In an open letter to troops published to mark the Cheonan anniversary, ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said there was a high possibility the DPRK's threats might be translated into action.
He also reiterated that Seoul's response to any provocation would not only target the origin of the attack, "but also its supporting and commanding forces".
The ROK and US militaries signed a pact last week providing for a joint military response even to "low-level action" by Pyongyang.