South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged North Korea Friday not to hurt the feelings of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, after the communist country threatened to backtrack on its agreement to hold reunions later this month.
The two Koreas agreed Wednesday to stage a new round of reunions at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on North Korea's east coast, from Feb. 20-25. A day later, however, North Korea demanded Seoul cancel its annual military drills with Washington, warning it may call off the planned reunions.
"North Korea should not leave a large wound in the hearts of the separated families again," Park said during a meeting at the presidential office with senior officials from across the government, military and civil society.
"I hope that by carrying out the reunions well, we will open the path to (improved) inter-Korean relations and move toward a new Korean Peninsula of peace and joint development."
Park stressed that action is more important than words in inter-Korean ties, saying South Korea should not let down its guard despite Pyongyang's recent peace overtures.
Her remarks were an apparent reference to North Korea's track record of making peace gestures and then launching provocations.
"We must deter North Korea's provocations by maintaining firm readiness, and if it carries out a provocation, resolutely punish it," Park said.
She also stressed the importance of keeping a combined defense posture among the government, military, police and civil society especially in the face of rising tensions over territorial and shared history issues in Northeast Asia.
Raising a toast, Park quoted the Latin adage, "Si vis pacem, para bellum," which means, "If you want peace, prepare for war."
"This saying is not intended to promote war, but rather peace," she said.
Park, who made a state visit to Switzerland last month, took the European country as an example of how a strong public sense of national security can defend a nation even in unfavorable conditions.
"Switzerland is a small country and a permanently neutral nation, but because its people have a strong awareness of national security, no one meddles with it." (Yonhap News)