Incoming South Korean President Highlights Danger From North

Park Guen-hye prepares to give her victory speech on Wednesday after being elected South Korea's next president. On Thursday, she acknowledged the threat posed by North Korea (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon).
Park Guen-hye prepares to give her victory speech on Wednesday after being elected South Korea's next president. On Thursday, she acknowledged the threat posed by North Korea (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon).

The next president of South Korea on Thursday highlighted the continued threat posed by North Korea, Reuters reported.

"North Korea's long-range missile launch showed how grave the security reality is that we are faced with," Park Guen-hye told reporters, referring to the rocket launch that occurred one week before her election on Wednesday as the South's first female president.

Seoul and allied governments lashed the launch as a test of ballistic missile technology prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions. Pyongyang said it was sending a weather satellite into space. While the launch itself proved successful, the satellite appears to be nonfunctional.

Park is from the same political party as outgoing President Lee Myung-bak. However, she has signaled a willingness to step back from the current government's hard-line approach toward its neighbor and has declared a willingness to meet with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.

"I will keep the promise I made to you to open a new era on the Korean peninsula, based on strong security and trust-based diplomacy," Agence France-Presse quoted Park as saying.

Park on Thursday held meetings with top envoys to Seoul from China, Japan, Russia and the United States, all of which were involved alongside South Korea in the long-moribund negotiations on North Korean denuclearization, the New York Times reported.

The talks were last held four years ago. Since then, Pyongyang has conducted its second nuclear test and unveiled a uranium enrichment plant that could give it another route for production of nuclear-weapon material. There have been signs that the North is readying for a follow-up to its 2006 and 2009 underground nuclear blasts, which both followed rocket launches.

“North Korea will wait a few months to see if Park Geun-hye will appease it with money,” issue expert Andrei Lankov, of Kookmin University in Seoul, told the newspaper. “If she does not -- and it looks unlikely that she will, given her statements so far and the hard-liners surrounding her -- then North Korea will launch provocations.”

Early contact is expected between Park and President Obama on North Korea and other issues, issue specialists told the Yonhap News Agency.

"I look forward to working closely with the Park administration to further enhance our extensive cooperation with the Republic of Korea on a wide range of important bilateral, regional and global issues," Obama said in released comments.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic message from the U.S. State Department cautioned China that failure to lean on North Korea following the rocket launch could lead the United States to significantly boosted armed forces collaboration in the region with nations including Japan and South Korea, the Washington Times reported on Thursday.

Beijing is Pyongyang's lead economic benefactor and diplomatic protector, though it plays down its sway over the regime. China's accession would be necessary for any Security Council action in response to the rocket firing.

December 20, 2012
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The next president of South Korea on Thursday highlighted the continued threat posed by North Korea, Reuters reported.

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