South Korean President Park Geun-hye yesterday urged North Korea to stop what she called military provocations on the border, hours after the North threatened to attack loudspeakers that the South has begun using to blast propaganda messages into the isolated state.
Park’s comments, in a speech marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and a then-unified Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule, came one-and-a-half weeks after two South Korean soldiers were badly wounded by land mines that the South says were planted by the North in the demilitarized zone dividing the Koreas.
“North Korea must wake up from its delusional belief that it can maintain its regime through provocations and threats,” Park said during her speech. “They lead only to isolation and destruction.”
South Korean leaders have traditionally marked the anniversary of the war’s end, called Liberation Day in the country, with a speech expressing hope for Korean reunification. The end of Japanese colonial rule seven decades ago was soon followed by Korea’s division, as the Soviet Union installed a communist government in the north and the US a capitalist one in the south.
CARROT AND STICK
Park’s speech yesterday included both condemnations and overtures directed at Pyongyang. She urged North Korea to learn from Cuba’s moves to improve relations with the US, but said the North had been “walking in the other direction,” referring to its nuclear weapons development, executions of officials deemed disloyal to the regime and provocations along the border.
Park also reiterated the South’s accusation that the North had planted the mines that maimed the soldiers near their outpost on the southern side of the demilitarized zone. One soldier lost both his legs, and the other lost one. Pyongyang has denied planting the mines, accusing the South of fabricating evidence that it had done so.
Park also offered suggestions for improving relations, saying the Koreas could resume their sporadic efforts to reunite families separated by the Korean War of 1950-1953 and could build trust by cooperating on fighting floods, droughts and epidemics, as well as sponsoring joint sports and cultural events.
“For Koreans, the real liberation from colonial rule is not completed until we have reunification,” she said.
Hours before Park’s speech, the North Korean military issued an “open warning” vowing to launch “unrestrained attacks” on the South Korean loudspeakers along the border if they were not removed, according to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea responded that it would target “the origins of attack” if its loudspeakers were hit by North Korean shells.
Both Koreas used such loudspeakers to broadcast propaganda at the border for decades until 2004, during a period of rapprochement, when they agreed to stop the practice. South Korea considered resuming the broadcasts in 2010, after one of its naval ships was sunk by what it said was a North Korean torpedo, but decided against it.
This week, the South activated the loudspeakers after 11 years, in response to the maiming of the soldiers at the border.
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