SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s new president will not tolerate North Korean provocations but will continue to push for dialogue with Pyongyang, a special envoy to President-elect Park Geun-hye said just hours after the North’s top governing body declared it would continue atomic tests and rocket launches.
Park envoy Rhee In-je told The Associated Press and selected news outlets in Davos, Switzerland, that Park is strongly urging North Korea to refrain from conducting a nuclear test that could only worsen the tensions on the Korean Peninsula in the wake of a provocative long-range rocket launch in December.
“President-elect Park makes it clear that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and further provocations against the South will not be tolerated,” Rhee said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Thursday. “In particular, she strongly urges North Korea to refrain from further worsening the situation by conducting a third nuclear test.”
But Park, who takes office next month, wants to leave the window open to constructive dialogue with Pyongyang and will continue to provide food and medical aid as part of a “trust-building” policy for the two Koreas. “It is a gradual process based on mutual trust and respect, which can begin with keeping promises,” he said.
She also advocates returning to the six-nation disarmament negotiations, Rhee said. North Korea walked away from those talks in 2009 and has said future disarmament talks are out off the table.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to condemn North Korea’s Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of bans against missile activity and expanded sanctions against the regime.
North Korea’s National Defense Commission responded Thursday by declaring that the regime will conduct its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. punishment, and it made clear that its long-range rockets are designed to carry not only satellites but also warheads aimed at striking the United States.
The commission headed by the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, reaffirmed that the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space but also clearly indicated the country’s rocket launches have a military purpose: to attack the United States.
The commission pledged to keep launching satellites and rockets and to conduct a nuclear test as part of a “new phase” of combat with the United States, which it blames for leading the U.N. bid to punish Pyongyang. It said a nuclear test was part of “upcoming” action but did not say exactly when or where it would take place.
“We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people,” the commission said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words, as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival,” the commission said.
While experts say North Korea doesn’t have the capability to hit the U.S. with its missiles, recent tests and rhetoric indicate the country is working toward that goal.
U.S. envoy on North Korea Glyn Davies urged Pyongyang not to explode an atomic device.
“Whether North Korea tests or not, it’s up to North Korea. We hope they don’t do it. We call on them not to do it,” he told reporters in Seoul after meeting with South Korean officials. “It will be a mistake and a missed opportunity if they were to do it.”
Davies was in Seoul on a trip that includes stops in China and Japan for talks on how to move forward on North Korea relations.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday said North Korea’s aggressive stance is unnecessary and warned against any further testing.
“North Korea’s statement is needlessly provocative and a test would be a significant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Further provocation would only increase Pyongyang’s isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear and missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people.”
He said the recent U.N. resolution is a “strong message of the international community’s opposition to North Korean provocations and these tightened sanctions will impede the growth of weapons of mass destruction programs in North Korea and the United States will be taking additional steps in that regard.”
Carney did not elaborate on what those steps might be.