South Korean President Park Geun-hye ordered the country's military Wednesday to swiftly retaliate against any provocation from North Korea amid heightened tensions over the North's recent missile launches and firing of artillery.
Park gave the order during a luncheon with about 140 key military commanders, including Defense Minister Han Min-koo, saying the communist nation has become increasingly unpredictable in recent weeks.
She especially noted that the North has made a "conciliatory gesture" by offering to send athletes and a cheerleading squad to the upcoming Asian Games to be held in the South's western port city of Incheon, while continuing to fire missiles and artillery into waters near the inter-Korean border.
"There are also large concerns in the international community about (the North's) preparations for a fourth nuclear test," she said during the luncheon at the presidential office. "The gravity of the situation does not allow for the least bit of carelessness in maintaining our defense posture."
This week, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles and fired about 100 artillery shells into the East Sea.
"I have complete faith in the judgment of our military," Park said. "If there is any provocation, I expect all of you to respond strongly in the initial stages and punish (the North)." (Yonhap)