S Korea’s Park puts security issues first

S Korea’s Park puts security issues first

SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
S Korea’s Park puts security issues first

South Korea’s president-elect Park urges the ‘grave’ threat posed by the North in her first policy address. AP photo

South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye made it clear yesterday she would make no concessions on national security while pursuing greater engagement with a belligerent North Korea.

In her first policy address since her historic election Dec. 19 as the country’s first woman president, Park stressed the “grave” security threat posed by the North as underscored by last week’s rocket launch.
“The launch of North Korea’s long-range missile symbolically showed how grave the security situation facing us is,” Park said. “I will keep the promise I made to you to open a new era on the Korean peninsula, based on strong security and trust-based diplomacy,” she added.

‘Work for reconciliation’

During her campaign, Park had distanced herself from the hardline policy of outgoing President Lee Myung-bak who suspended humanitarian aid to the North. Park had promised a dual policy of greater engagement and “robust deterrence,” and had not ruled out a summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un, who came to power a year ago.

She promised to work for regional stability in Northeast Asia where South Korea, China and Japan are engaged in a series of bitter territorial disputes. “I will also work for greater reconciliation, cooperation and peace in Northeast Asia,” Park said, while adding, in an aside clearly aimed at Japan that trust and stability had to be based on “a correct historical perception.”

While North Korea and other regional tensions will top her foreign agenda, Park’s immediate challenge will be to deliver on the domestic issues that dominated the election.