By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) - South Korea's president took a “no compromise” stance on handling North Korea’s nuclear ambitions Monday, as she made a speech at the opening of her country’s 20th National Assembly.
Park Geun-hye vowed to do all she could to counter the North’s atomic weapon threat, while calling for parliamentary backing in tackling what she described as a “fundamental” obstacle to improve inter-Korean ties.
Political discord has carried over to the new Assembly, featuring representatives chosen by April’s general election – which saw the conservative Saenuri Party, once led by Park, lose its majority status in a surprise outcome.
Now speaking to a larger number of potential foes than friends, Park might have noted that Monday also marked the 16th anniversary of the first ever summit talks between the Koreas.
The early 2000s witnessed a bloom in cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang under successive liberal presidents in the South, where left-leaning lawmakers have long been seen as favoring a conciliatory approach to the North – even digging in their heels over issues like human rights in the past.
Park made it clear that dialogue with North Korea would have to wait, despite consistent requests for talks by the authoritarian state since a landmark political congress in Pyongyang last month.
“Making the offer for dialogue without any denuclearization steps is only a deceit,” Park said during her speech. “There can't be any compromise on the issues of security that are directly linked to the lives and safety of our citizens.”
North Korea was squeezed by strengthened United Nations sanctions in March following a nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch a month later.
Park administration’s position in the wake of those punitive measures has been to reject cooperation with Pyongyang until it shows a commitment to abandoning atomic weapons.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was again cited by state media Monday as defending his nuclear interests, having already made clear that the North will continue to develop powerful weapons in the face of a perceived American threat – the U.S. has a significant military presence in the region, including nearly 30,000 personnel in South Korea alone.