Pope Francis called Thursday for dedication to build peace on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea displayed its latest show of force by firing projectiles into the sea off the country's east coast.
Francis said the quest for peace represents a challenge, but said efforts for reconciliation and stability are the only sure path to lasting peace.
"May all of us dedicate these days to peace, to praying for it and deepening our resolve to achieve it," Francis said in a speech in Seoul, where he arrived earlier in the day in the first visit to South Korea by a pontiff in 25 years.
His comments came hours after North Korea launched three short-range rockets into the East Sea in an apparent attempt to dampen the festive mood in South Korea over the pope's trip to Seoul.
The rocket launches, the latest in a series of provocations in recent months, underscored tensions on the divided peninsula over North Korea's missiles and nuclear weapons programs.
Francis delivered the speech soon after he held talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the presidential office.
In a separate speech, Park called on North Korea to halt its development of nuclear weapons to ensure the rival Koreas can achieve a unification that can contribute to peace and prosperity in the world.
"I believe that achieving a unification of the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons is an aspiration of peace-loving people in the world, including the pope," Park said. (Yonhap)