(2nd LD) Acting president vows to strongly respond to N.K. nuke threats
(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 12-13)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Monday vowed to strongly respond to North Korea's growing nuclear threats through close international cooperation.
His remarks came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Pyongyang is in the "closing phase" of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, a message that has foreshadowed yet another military provocation by the wayward regime.
"To ensure that there will not be any slightest problem in our robust security, we will strengthen our defense capabilities, and strongly respond to North Korea's nuclear threats through close cooperation with the international community," Hwang said during a speech at the government's kick-off ceremony for the new year.
Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn gives a speech at the government's kick-off ceremony for the new year at the central government complex in Seoul on Jan. 2, 2017. (Yonhap)
He also pledged to expand diplomatic cooperation with the United States, Japan, China and Russia, stressing he would ensure there would not be any foreign policy vacuum despite President Park Geun-hye being suspended after her impeachment last month over a corruption scandal.
During his speech, he outlined the government's policy priorities for the new year that focus on enhancing national defense, revitalizing the economy, securing future growth engines and ensuring public safety.
On the economic front, Hwang said that the government will try to reduce uncertainties stemming from internal and external risks in a preemptive manner, and mobilize "all available resources" to reinvigorate the sluggish economy.
He said that the government will take bold steps to remove unnecessary regulations, and strive harder to restore domestic consumption and bolster exports. He also pledged to enhance support for small and medium-sized firms, startups and new industries.
During a regular high-level meeting on state affairs later in the day, Hwang vowed to offer across-the-board support for South Korean firms seeking to clinch overseas business deals. He stressed the importance of advancing into overseas markets to create new jobs and stimulate the economy.
"This year, the government, in tandem with the civilian sector, will muster up its capabilities and mobilize all possible resources in order to expand overseas infrastructure construction deals for South Korean firms," Hwang said.
He also said that through an advisory panel of government officials and experts, the government will try to systematically support South Korean enterprises.
The acting president, in addition, said that the government will use various existing tools, such as the economic development cooperation fund, designed to support developing countries, to help South Korean firms expand their footholds abroad.
Meanwhile, Hwang's aide told reporters that he will determine whether to join a trilateral summit with the leaders of China and Japan as soon as possible if a schedule is fixed. Japanese media recently reported that the three countries have been discussing the idea of holding the summit in Tokyo around Feb. 10.
The three-way summit resumed in Seoul in 2015 after it had been suspended for a few years due to long-festering historical and territorial feuds. The summit was instituted in 2008 to bolster cooperation on a range of regional and global issues.