S. Korea's new cabinet meets as North tensions rise

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's new president, Park Geun Hye, finally held her first cabinet meeting Monday, with her new - and still only partially-formed - administration facing a growing crisis with North Korea.

Since she was sworn in two weeks ago as the country's first woman president, Park has struggled to form a cabinet, with a parliamentary row delaying confirmation of key ministerial nominees.

With North Korea threatening "all-out war" and announcing the scrapping of inter-Korean peace agreements, Park is still without a confirmed defence minister, national security adviser and intelligence chief.

"Finally we have managed to hold the first cabinet meeting," Park told assembled ministers in the presidential Blue House.

"At this time of crisis amid threats from the North... the situation is really regrettable and I feel sorry for our people," Park said.

The focus of the current parliamentary impasse is a bill to adopt Park's proposals for a governmental reorganisation that would create new ministries and offices and reallocate responsibilities.

The opposition has refused to sanction part of the bill that would transfer broadcast policy-setting rights from an independent state watchdog to a newly created science and technology "super-ministry".

The resulting deadlock has delayed confirmation hearings for a number of crucial cabinet posts and has prompted at least one prominent nominee to withdraw in frustration.

"Leadership is being shadowed by fights for political gain," Park said Monday.

Park had campaigned on a promise of greater engagement with Pyongyang, but her plans have been undermined by the fallout from the North's successful long-range rocket launch in December and its third nuclear test last month.

North Korea has sharply escalated war threats over resulting UN sanctions and a joint South Korean-US military drill that began Monday .