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(News Focus) Park vows 'trust-building' with N. Korea despite nuke brink
SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye reaffirmed her policy of pursuing "trust-building" measures with North Korea to rebuild inter-Korean ties, but the big question is whether the North will live up to its promises.

   Given Pyongyagn's history of erraticism on its pursuit of missile and nuclear weapons, as well as its attacks on Seoul, the road to repairing relations between the two Koreas might be a long one, particularly after the North's third nuclear test early this month.

   In her first speech since being inaugurated on Monday, Park said, "Through a trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula, I intend to lay the groundwork for an era of harmonious unification where all Koreans can lead more prosperous and freer lives."

   "Trust can be built through dialogue and by honoring promises that have already been made," Park said, urging North Korea to "abide by international norms and make the right choice so that the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula can move forward."


North Korea set off its third nuclear device on Feb. 12, drawing a chorus of international condemnation. Seoul and Washington are pushing for more sanctions against Pyongyang, which has threatened to "take the second and third stronger steps in succession" to retaliate against such sanctions.

   The North's latest atomic test, which came weeks after an apparent successful launch of a long-range missile, raised fears that Pyongyang might have taken a step closer to flying nuclear warheads atop inter-continental ballistic missiles.

   Apparently mindful of the North's nuclear brinkmanship, Park also took a firm stance on a defiant Pyongyang.

   Speaking in strong terms in her inauguration address, Park said, "North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people, and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself." She has vowed never to tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea.

   Still, how exactly Park intends to work on "trustpolitik" with North Korea is unclear.

   Professor Park Ihn-hwi of Ewha Womans University in Seoul said the new President should separate the need for sanctions against North Korea's provocations from her confidence-building measures.

   "At the initial stage, President Park could begin specific work with North Korea, including dialogue, humanitarian aid and mutual recognition of previous promises," the professor said. "But, a strategy is needed to separate a message of sanctions against North Korea from a message for the renewal of humanitarian aid," the professor told a forum in Seoul earlier in the day.

   On the international stage, President Park will reaffirm the strong alliance with the U.S., while strengthening a strategic partnership with its biggest trading partner China.

   President Park inherited troubled relations with Japan, a country which angered South Korea last week by sending central government officials to an event hosted by Shimane Prefecture that renewed Tokyo's claim to the South Korean islets of Dokdo.

   In her address, Park also used the word "trust" in dealing with foreign-policy challenges.

   "To ease tensions and conflicts and further spread peace and cooperation in Asia, I will work to strengthen trust with countries in the region including the United States, China, Japan, Russia and other Asian and Oceanic countries," the new President said.

   "Moreover, I envision a Korea that shares more deeply the travails of others while also contributing to the resolution of key global issues," she said.