President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday renewed her calls for North Korea to renounce its nuclear programs and focus on its people’s livelihoods instead during her speech marking the third anniversary of the sinking of the corvette Cheonan.
“Putting down nuclear weapons and missiles, renouncing any provocation or threat and opting for change to become a responsible member of the international community, this is the only way for North Korea’s survival,” she said.
“Pyongyang should immediately stop any provocation that would keep the vicious circle of sacrifice and confrontations, and choose a path for a virtuous circle of peace and prosperity on the peninsula.”
President Park Geun-hye walks to the grave of Han Joo-ho, the chief warrant officer who died during a search and rescue operation, at Daejeon National Cemetery ahead of the event marking the third anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
A somber-looking Park in a black suit delivered the speech at a government ceremony, which was held at Daejeon National Cemetery to remember the 46 deceased crewmembers of the warship sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack.
Some 5,000 people attended the emotional event, including the bereaved families of the victims and Chief Warrant Officer Han Joo-ho who died during the following deep-water rescue operation.
After a multinational probe into the case, Seoul concluded in May 2010 that a midget North Korean submarine torpedoed the 1,200-ton vessel while it was on a regular patrol near the western sea border. Pyongyang claims the probe result was a “fabrication.”
During her speech, Park did not mention her signature “peninsular trust-building” process or any offer of financial aid to the impoverished state, apparently to focus on commemorating the victims.
But she reiterated the importance of national security based on citizens’ security awareness and unity.
“To pass down a secure, peaceful nation to our decedents is the government’s responsibility and important duty,” she said. “In the realm of national security, there should not be any partisan division.”
In a meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell a day earlier, Park stressed that should Pyongyang make a “right, responsible” decision, Seoul with the international community will begin the trust-focused process to help Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, in his statement delivered to lower-level military units to mark the anniversary, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin reiterated the need to maintain the highest deterrence capabilities.
“Our strong readiness and sufficient preparation can only deter the enemy’s provocations,” he said. “We persevered while preparing for retaliation, and our citizens have also renewed their resolve to preserve their nation.”
The North’s state media had hardened its bellicose criticism against Kim, stressing that Kim would be “at the top of the list for retaliatory strikes.”
“As soon as his post was retained, he showed the dark intention to launch the provocation of a nuclear invasion into the North,” a North Korean propaganda website said.
Kim has served as defense minister since December 2010. He retained his post after controversy-laden Kim Byung-kwan withdrew his nomination for defense minister last week amid a series of allegations of misdeeds.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org