South Korea says time to get tough with North Korea

People watching a news report on North Korea's rocket launch at a railway station in Seoul on Feb 7.
People watching a news report on North Korea's rocket launch at a railway station in Seoul on Feb 7. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean President Park Geun Hye on Tuesday (Feb 16) called for “courage” in standing up to North Korea, saying a fundamentally new approach was needed to derail Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

As the North’s neighbour and prime target, South Korea must take a leading role in sanctioning Pyongyang for its nuclear provocations, Ms Park said in an address to the National Assembly.

The speech came a week after she took the unprecedented step of shutting down operations at the jointly run Kaesong industrial estate in North Korea, triggering an aggressive response from Pyongyang.

“It has become clear that we cannot break North Korea’s will to develop nuclear weapons through existing means and goodwill,” Ms Park said.

“It’s time to find a fundamental solution for bringing practical change in North Korea and to show courage in putting that into action,” she added.

Citing the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, which was widely viewed as a ballistic missile test, Ms Park said it was clear Pyongyang had no intention of discussing denuclearisation.

“If time passes without any change, the Kim Jong Un leadership – which is speeding without a brake – could deploy a nuclear-tipped missile and we will suffer,” she said.

Ms Park’s comments reflected the harder line she has adopted following last month’s nuclear test and the Feb 7 missile launch.

A similar line is being pushed by the United States and Japan in an effort to secure a strong UN Security Council resolution that will include harsh new sanctions for North Korea.

The North’s main diplomatic protector, China, is resisting what it deems excessively punitive measures – wary of the consequences of a collapsing North Korea on its border.