SEOUL – North Korea must pay a price for its latest nuclear test and rocket launch, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday, vowing to pressure Pyongyang into accepting denuclearization as its only option for survival.
In a televised speech marking the anniversary of the 1919 independence movement against Japanese rule over the Korean peninsula, Park said failure to respond to the North’s “reckless provocations” would only result in further nuclear tests.
“If we leave them alone, they will continue,” said the president who has significantly toughened her stance against Pyongyang in the wake of the North’s fourth nuclear test on January 6 and a long-range rocket launch last month that was widely condemned as a ballistic missile test.
“North Korea must clearly understand . . . that they can no longer maintain their regime through nuclear weapons,” Park said
Her comments came as the U.N. Security Council heads toward a vote on a new U.S.-drafted resolution that would impose the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
The draft text would require countries to take the unprecedented step of inspecting all cargo to and from North Korea, impose new trade restrictions and bar North Korean vessels suspected of carrying illegal goods from ports.
Park said the draft, which has secured the approval of North Korea’s main ally China, showed the collective will of the international community to ensure that Pyongyang “pay the price” for its refusal to halt its nuclear weapons program.
“My government will leave the door for dialogue open, but until North Korea shows they are willing to change and to pursue denuclearization, we and the international community will continue to pressure North Korea,” she said.
“The ball is now in North Korea’s court,” she added.
The U.N. resolution currently under discussion at the Security Council, represents a compromise between the United States and China, who had been at odds over how to respond to North Korea’s recent tests.
China wants its reclusive neighbor to halt its nuclear weapons program and return to six-party international talks, maintaining that dialogue — rather than sanctions — is the best way to curb Pyongyang’s behavior.
Beijing fears too much pressure could trigger the collapse of leader Kim Jong Un’s pariah regime, creating chaos on its border.