Friday 15 December 2017

N Korea will pay dearly for attack, vows South

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak addresses the nation during a news conference at the presidential house in Seoul. Photo: Reuters
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak addresses the nation during a news conference at the presidential house in Seoul. Photo: Reuters

Andrew Gilligan in Seoul

South Korea's president has said there is no point in being patient with North Korea any longer, as he warned that his communist neighbours would pay a "dear price" for any future provocations.

North Korea, which claims ownership of the sea immediately around the southern island of Yeonpyeong, declared yesterday that it was "not afraid of war", explicitly threatening a "rain of dreadful fire" if there is any violation of what it deems its territory.

In his first full address to the nation since Pyongyang shelled Yeonpyeong, killing four people, Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, said that "at long last" his country had come to realise that its previous policy of patience with North Korea "no longer makes sense".

"The South Korean people now unequivocally understand that prolonged endurance and tolerance will spawn nothing but more serious provocations," he said.

"We are aware of the historic lesson that a disgraceful peace achieved through intimidation only brings about greater harm in the end.

"If the North commits any additional provocations against the South, we will make sure that it pays a dear price without fail."

In his seven-minute televised address, President Lee, who is facing a wave of anger from South Koreans over his handling of the attack, apologised to his countrymen for what he called a "crime against humanity".

"I am standing here, keenly aware that I am responsible for not having been able to protect the lives and property of the people," the president said. "I understand very well that you were greatly disappointed with how we responded." Mr Lee's promise of retaliation for any future North Korean attack leaves him with almost no room for manoeuvre in the event of further provocations by Pyongyang.

In taking the blame for failing to protect Yeonpyeong from the deadly North Korean attack the South Korea president vowed the North would face consequences for future aggression.

Lee Myung-bak did not give specifics about those consequences, nor did he say what actions South Korea would take in response to the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island. At the same time, however, the South drew back from staging new live-fire exercises around Yeonpyeong island. Similar exercises last week were blamed by Pyongyang for triggering its attack.

The exercises are separate from joint President Obama initiated US-South Korean drills which continue 50 miles to the south. Pyongyang state media has issued new threats against the South. "We don't want war, but never are afraid of one," the 'Rodong Sinmun', newspaper said. "If internal and external war maniacs make a provocation again, we will counter it without hesitation, grub up the base of aggressors entirely and cleanse the root cause of war clearly."

North Korea, meanwhile, announced it had "cutting-edge" nuclear fusion technology, claiming a breakthrough in a field that has baffled the world's scientific community. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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