By Dow Jones Business News, March 08, 2013, 10:55:00 AM EDT
SEOUL--South Korean President Park Geun-hye warned North Korea of firm retaliation against any military strikes or
other provocations after Pyongyang said Friday it would be no longer bound by nonaggression agreements between the
A day after the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea in response to its Feb. 12
nuclear test, the North said it would sever its main hotline with the South and scrap agreements on avoiding conflict,
including a pact reached in 1991 that calls for the peaceful settlement of disputes and avoidance of accidental military
"I will deal strongly with North Korea's provocations," Ms. Park said in a speech at a graduation ceremony for
military cadets in Gyeryongdae, central South Korea.
North Korea's latest round of brinkmanship adds to a barrage of recent invective directed at annual military drills in
the South and sanctions imposed by the U.N. in response to the North's ballistic rocket launch in January and nuclear
test last month. On Tuesday, North Korea said that on March 11 it would withdraw from the armistice agreement that
suspended Korean War hostilities in 1953, although it has claimed to have withdrawn several times previously.
North Korea has also threatened the U.S. with nuclear attack, although analysts say it doesn't have the ability to
carry such a threat out. North Korea's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, quoted a military general at a military rally on
Thursday claiming that the North had long-range missiles armed with nuclear warheads ready to fire at Washington.
Officials and analysts in Seoul caution that while North Korea's threats likely ring hollow, the isolated state has
previously staged provocations shortly after new presidents take office in the South. Ms. Park was inaugurated on Feb.
The most recent military confrontation between the two countries was an attack on a South Korean island in November
2010 near the countries disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea. Four people were killed.
North Korean state media reported that dictator Kim Jong Eun on Thursday visited the artillery unit that shelled the
island and called for the troops there to ensure readiness for action.
"The countries are waging a tug of war verbally. I expect North Korea will stick to its usual pattern of raising
tensions and end up with talks," said Cheon Hyun-joon, senior research fellow of the Korea Institute for National
Unification in Seoul.
Ms. Park faces a tough challenge of maintaining a hard line against North Korean rhetoric while leaving the door open
to dialogue as part of her policy pledge to seek a new era of "trustpolitik" with the North following years of icy
relations under previous president Lee Myung-bak.
"If North Korea seeks changes, (South Korea) is ready to make efforts to restore trust," Ms. Park said.
While prospects for constructive engagement between the Koreas appear grim at present, analysts note that North Korea
has yet to target Ms. Park with the same kind of personal criticism it regularly leveled at Mr. Lee, suggesting it is
still gauging its approach to her.
During her election campaign, Ms. Park tapped into a growing consensus among South Koreans of a need to seek better
ties with Pyongyang, but she has remained cautious about conditioning engagement on a willingness by the North to work
constructively with the South.
Her task has been complicated within days of taking office by an escalation of rhetoric that is extreme even by the
North's typically aggressive tone. Following her speech at the graduation ceremony Friday, Ms. Park was briefed on a
meeting of senior security officials earlier in the day. During the briefing she denounced the North for making "
inexpressible threats," according to her spokesman.
Earlier in the day, a spokesman for South Korea's defense ministry said the Kim Jong Eun regime would "perish from the
earth" if it attacked the South with a nuclear weapon.
--Kwanwoo Jun contributed to this report.
Write to Alastair Gale at firstname.lastname@example.org
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