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April 01, 2013

S. Korea President Vows Strong Retaliation Against North

by VOA News

South Korea's president has warned that the country's military will strike back swiftly and decisively against any North Korean attack, as tensions on the peninsula continue to mount.

In a meeting with senior defense officials Monday, President Park Geun-hye ordered them to respond to any provocation from the North without regard to "political considerations."  

Ms. Park's blunt message came as North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament held its annual one-day session, reaffirming the government's commitment to expand its nuclear arsenal and continue rocket launches.

In Washington Monday, the White House said that despite days of provocative rhetoric from North Korea, the United States has not detected any military mobilizations.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States and its allies are looking closely at both North Korean rhetoric and the situation on the ground.

"I would note, that despite the harsh rhetoric we are hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces. Now we take this seriously, we have said that in the past, and we are vigilant and we are monitoring the Korean situation very diligently," said Carney.

In another development Monday, the United States further strengthened its naval capabilities in international waters off North Korea, moving a guided missile destroyer to the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula.

A Defense Department official told VOA this is "a prudent move that provides greater missile defense options should they become necessary."

On Sunday, a pair of U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets flew from Okinawa to Osan Air Base, 65 kilometers south of Seoul. The stealth fighters are participating in the Foal Eagle exercise, which lasts until the end of this month.

The drills have included unusual demonstrations of U.S. air power, including simulated long-range bombing runs by B-52 and B-2 strategic bombers.

Also Monday, North Korea's parliament appointed economic reformer Pak Pong Ju to replace Choe Yong Rim as premier.  Pak, believed to favor Chinese-style economic reforms, was removed from the same post in 2007.

Analysts say Pak's reemergence is a clear signal that leader Kim Jong Un is moving to focus on strengthened economic development. The U.N. says two-thirds of the country's 24 million people face regular food shortages.

Pyongyang has recently increased tensions with repeated threats of war against the South and the United States in anger over joint military exercises, as well as tightened U.N. Security Council resolutions for its third nuclear test.

In recent weeks, Pyongyang has declared the 1953 armistice invalid, vowed to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland and bases in the Pacific, cut a pair of hotlines with the South and declared a state of war.

The moves followed United Nations Security Council approval of additional sanctions on Pyongyang following last December's long-range rocket launch and February's nuclear test - the third by North Korea.