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Park warns N. Korea could self-destruct unless it embraces change

President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that North Korea could self-destruct unless it embraces change, the latest in a series of harsh warnings aimed at pressuring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapons program.

Tensions have spiked on the divided Korean Peninsula as North Korea has ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric in response to the massive military drills under way between South Korea and the United States.

North Korea has threatened to launch “pre-emptive attacks” against Seoul and Washington at a moment‘s notice. Kim has ordered his officials to get ready to carry out nuclear attacks and conduct more nuclear tests.

Pyongyang could “trod the path of self-destruction by itself if it does not move toward the path of change while continuing its provocations and strong confrontation with the international community,” Park said in a Cabinet meeting.

She added the North’s recent threats underscored a sense of crisis being felt by North Korea toward the international sanctions.

Kim has said North Korea will conduct “a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads” soon “to further enhance the reliance of nuclear attack capability,” the North‘s official Korean Central News Agency said in an English-language dispatch.

Pyongyang’s move is widely seen as the latest sign of defiance against tough U.N. sanctions imposed on the communist country for its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.

The sanctions call for, among other things, the mandatory inspection of all cargo going into and out of the North, and a ban on the country‘s exports of coal and other mineral resources to cut off North Korea’s access to hard currency.

Park called on the military to maintain readiness to retaliate against North Korea if Pyongyang stages provocations against Seoul.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn also said South Korea and the U.S.

should deter North Korea‘s possible provocations through their strong alliance. He made the comments during a rare visit to the allies’ Combined Forces Command at the U.S. military headquarters in Yongsan in the heart of Seoul.

South Korea has repeatedly vowed to strongly retaliate against any provocations to avenge the deaths of 50 South Koreans who were killed in two separate attacks by the North in March and November of 2010.

Separately, Park welcomed the parliamentary endorsement of a bill meant to improve North Korea‘s dismal human rights record, saying the North’s human rights situation is an issue that must not go unaddressed.

North Korea has long been accused of grave human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions.

Still, the North has denied any rights abuses, describing the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime, and claiming it has the world‘s most advantageous human rights conditions and policies. (Yonhap)

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