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Park vows 'stern' response to N.Korea

President-elect Park Geun-hye said Friday South Korea will deal sternly with any additional North Korean provocations amid growing concern that the communist nation could soon conduct a nuclear test.

 "North Korea launched missiles twice (last year) despite opposition from the whole world," Park said at a meeting with the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Ed Royce (R-CA), and other congressional leaders, according to spokesman Park Sun-kyoo.

 "I am greatly concerned North Korea may attempt additional provocations," she said. "The international community should work hard to prevent it. For South Korea, North Korea's nuclear program is unacceptable and if there is an additional provocation, we will deal sternly with it together with the international community."

Pyongyang said last week it will conduct a nuclear test after a U.N. Security Council resolution condemned its Dec. 12 rocket launch. The North is believed to have installed radiation measurement equipment at the Punggye-ri test site, a sign that a test may be imminent.

South Korea officially warned Thursday that the North will face "grave consequences" if it conducts a third nuclear test. The isolated country conducted two previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

In meetings with special Chinese and U.S. envoys last month, Park said that North Korea's nuclear development is intolerable and she will respond sternly to any North Korean provocations, though she also said she will leave the window open for dialogue with Pyongyang.

Park's transition team has since urged North Korea to drop the nuclear test plan.

In Friday's meeting, Park also said she is very much interested in North Korea's human rights record.

"I have a lot of interest in the issue of North Korea's human rights," Park said. "It is important to make efforts on such issues as the fundamental objective of our efforts for unification lies in improving the quality of lives of all people on the Korean Peninsula and further expanding freedom and human rights."

Park said she will also work hard to bring home South Korean prisoners of the 1950-53 Korean War, who are believed to still be alive across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders. She said her government will raise the issue as a priority in future talks with Pyongyang.

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