SEOUL (AA) – South Korean President Park Geun-hye gave North Korea her sternest warning to date Tuesday, as she changed tack from years of attempted trust-building with Pyongyang.
In a televised parliamentary speech, Park spoke openly for the first time about the potential “collapse” of the North’s authoritarian regime, following its latest steps towards developing nuclear weapons.
The timing of her address was significant not only because of North Korea’s rocket launch and nuclear test this year — both of which were carried out in defiance of United Nations resolutions — but also because Tuesday marked the birthday of the North’s late leader Kim Jong-il.
With the reclusive state celebrating its so-called ‘Day of the Shining Star’ in honor of a Kim dynasty that enjoys divine status among North Koreans, Park’s choice of words may have appeared particularly provocative.
“The government and I will make sure to transform the North Korean regime so that true peace will prevail on the Korean Peninsula and North Koreans can also enjoy the fruits of freedom, human rights and prosperity that we enjoy now,” the South Korean president declared.
Pyongyang has issued aggressive rebuttals when its nuclear development and human rights have been questioned in the past.
But tensions are particularly high on the peninsula following last week’s closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean facility just inside North Korea — the complex was abandoned when Pyongyang ordered the rapid departure of all South Korean personnel a day after Seoul announced its plan for a more gradual withdrawal.
The pullout left the Koreas’ relationship as broken theoretically as it was when a ceasefire brought an uneasy end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
While the North shows no sign of abandoning what it sees as a sovereign right to develop nuclear weapons, Park promised to ensure that Pyongyang understands such a path “will only hasten its collapse.”
In addition to unilateral measures, Seoul is discussing strengthened sanctions against North Korea with the global community as the UN Security Council is expected to unveil another related resolution in the near future.
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