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(2nd LD) Park calls for powerful response to N. Korean provocations
SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye instructed South Korea's military Monday to set aside any political considerations and respond powerfully in the event of North Korean provocations, as Pyongyang has churned out near-daily threats of war on the divided peninsula.

   Park made the unusually tough remark during a policy briefing at the defense ministry, saying she takes "very seriously" a recent string of North Korean moves and threats, such as the scrapping of a nonaggression treaty, the cutoff of a military hotline and the weekend declaration that inter-Korean ties have entered a "state of war."

   "The reason for the military's existence is to protect the country and the people from threats. If any provocations happen against our people and our country, it should respond powerfully in the early stage without having any political considerations," Park said.

   "As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I will trust the military's judgment on abrupt and surprise provocations by North Korea as it is the one that directly faces off against the North," she said. "Please carry out your duty of guarding the safety of the people without getting distracted even a bit."

   In recent weeks, Pyongyang has sharply ratcheted up tensions with repeated war threats against the South in anger over joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States as well as a new U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in response to its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

   It has declared the 1953 armistice, which ended the three-year Korean War, null and void, severed all hotlines with the South and threatened to launch nuclear attacks on South Korea and the mainland United States.

   Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also put strategic rocket units on standby, threatening to strike targets in South Korea, the U.S. and military bases in Hawaii and Guam. And on Saturday, the North declared that inter-Korean relations have entered a state of war and threatened to shut down a joint industrial complex in its border city of Kaesong.


During the briefing, Park had a video call with the commander of the Navy's Second Fleet responsible for defense of the western sea border with North Korea and called for strong preparedness, according to presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung.

   "The West Sea is where North Korean provocations have concentrated, and I remember that more provocations happened in the crab-catching season," Park said during the call. "On the shoulders of the Second Fleet is the heavy responsibility of not only guaranteeing the safety of fishermen and their livelihoods, but also (safeguarding) security and peace" of the country.

   Park also had a similar video call with an Army division commander.

   She also called for rooting out draft dodging, saying the crime gives the people a sense of unfairness, which she said could ultimately lead to a shaking in the country's security, according to the spokesman.