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(4th LD) Park calls for strong U.N. sanctions on N. Korea

2016/02/07 16:14

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by ruling party chief, decision by S. Korea, U.S. to discuss on possible deployment of THAAD)

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Sunday condemned North Korea's missile launch as an "unacceptable provocation" and called on the U.N. Security Council to quickly slap strong sanctions on the North.

North Korea said its long-range rocket has successfully put a satellite into orbit. Seoul and Washington view the launch as the North's cover for testing ballistic missile technology, which is banned under U.N. resolutions.

"North Korea has committed an unacceptable provocation of launching a long-range missile after conducting a fourth nuclear test," Park said in a meeting of the National Security Council.

"The Security Council should quickly come up with strong sanctions," Park said.

The Security Council has already been working on a resolution of sanctions to punish North Korea for its Jan. 6 nuclear test.

Park accused North Korea of developing missile and nuclear weapons in total disregard of its suffering people.

North Korea's missile launch is "an extreme provocation only to maintain its regime" said Cho Tae-yong, deputy chief of the presidential office of national security, in a government statement.

The North has long been accused of pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles while starving its people and violating their human rights.

Last year, a U.N. report showed that about 70 percent of North Korea's 24.6 million people are suffering due to food shortages.

Cho said the only way to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program is to adopt effective and strong sanctions against the country.

"The government will continue to put necessary pressure on North Korea so that North Korea has no other choice but to change," Cho said, without elaborating.

The North has repeatedly pledged to boost its nuclear capability, viewing its nuclear program as a powerful deterrent against what it claims is Washington's hostile policy towards it.

North Korea is also already under U.N. sanctions for its three previous nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

Chinese support is crucial to adopting a new resolution for sanctions as it is one of the five permanent veto-wielding members of the council.

China is also North Korea's most important trading partner, giving Beijing significant leverage over Pyongyang.

Still, some experts said China is reluctant to enforce tougher measures on its communist neighbor due mainly to fears of possible instability in North Korea.

On Friday, Park spoke by phone with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and asked him to cooperate with the Security Council in adopting strong and effective sanctions on North Korea over its fourth nuclear test.

Xi said that relevant countries should deal with the situation in a "cool-headed" manner and China will make efforts to resolve problems through dialogue and negotiations.

Cho said the South and the United States will push for substantial measures to strengthen South Korea's security capability against the threats posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, said South Korea should mobilize all means to stop threats posed by North Korea's nuclear program.

Seoul and Washington agreed to begin negotiations for the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system for U.S. military in South Korea. The U.S. keeps some 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their terminal stage using a hit-to-kill program.

Also Sunday, Park renewed calls on the parliament to approve an anti-terrorism bill to protect the lives of South Koreans, citing possible terror attacks by North Korea.

North Korea has a track record of staging terror attacks against South Korea in the past decades, including the 1987 midair bombing of a Korean Air flight that killed all 115 people aboard.

The attack has prompted the U.S. to place North Korea on its list of countries sponsoring terrorism. But Washington removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 in exchange for progress in six-way talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program.

The nuclear talks -- which involve the host China, South and North Korea, the U.S., Japan and Russia -- were last held in 2008.