SEOUL – North Korea’s top military body launched a blistering personal attack Friday on South Korean President Park Geun-hye and vowed to push ahead with the country’s nuclear weapons program.
The harsh tone of the attack, attributed to a spokesman from the National Defense Commission, echoed the bellicose rhetoric employed by North Korea when military tensions soared following its nuclear test in February.
Referencing Park by name rather than using the more neutral “chief executive” moniker, the spokesman warned the president that she is steering the Korean Peninsula back into a period of dangerous “confrontation.”
The commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, was largely a response to a speech by Park on Tuesday urging Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions. The president had also talked up the development of a military deterrent capability that will render North Korea’s nuclear weapons “useless.”
A day later, visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, signed a new strategic plan to counter the growing threat of a North Korean nuclear or chemical weapons attack.
“If Park and her group conspire with outsiders under the pretext of leading (North Korea) to ‘change’ . . . and force it to dismantle nuclear weapons, it will be little short of digging their own graves,” the spokesman said.
“There will be no bigger fool and poorer imbecile than the one who schemes to side with a nuclear-wielding robber and urge one’s own kinsmen to lower a knife first,” he warned.
The spokesman said North Korea will “invariably advance” its development of nuclear weapons, saying they are a vital deterrent to prevent a U.S. nuclear strike. Pyongyang has called for a resumption of six-party talks on its nuclear program, but Washington and Seoul insist that it must first take tangible steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization.
Expert analysis of recent satellite images suggests Pyongyang has made good on promises to restart a mothballed plutonium reactor and may have doubled its uranium enrichment capacity.
The military tensions in March and April that triggered apocalyptic threats of nuclear war had seemed to ease significantly in recent months. But a rapprochement signaled by the reopening of a joint industrial zone now appears to have run out of steam.
A scheduled reunion last month for family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War was canceled at the last minute by Pyongyang, citing South Korean “hostility.”