South Korea’s new president on Monday promised a strong military response to any North Korean provocation after Pyongyang announced that the two countries were now in a state of war.
President Park Geun-Hye’s warning came as North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament was set to hold its annual session and a day after ruling party leaders vowed to enshrine Pyongyang’s right to nuclear weapons in law.
In a meeting with senior military officials and defence minister Kim Kwan-Jin, Park said she took the near-daily stream of bellicose threats emanating from the North over the past month “very seriously”.
“I believe that we should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if (the North) stages any provocation against our people,” she said.
Park, a conservative who had advocated cautious engagement with the North during her election campaign, has been compelled to take a more hardline posture after assuming office in February.
The defence minister made it clear that the South would carry out pre-emptive strikes against the North’s nuclear and missile facilities in the event of hostilities breaking out.
“We will... establish a so-called ‘active deterrence’ aimed at neutralising the North’s nuclear and missile threats quickly,” Kim said.
The Korean peninsula has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since the North’s long-range rocket launch in December, which its critics condemned as a ballistic missile test. UN sanctions were followed by a nuclear test in February.