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Park calls for military readiness against N. Korean provocations

All Headlines 11:46 August 17, 2015

SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye urged the military Monday to maintain its readiness amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following a land mine attack blamed on North Korea.

North Korea has threatened to carry out "indiscriminate strikes" on South Korea unless Seoul halts anti-Pyongyang broadcasts along their heavily fortified border that were restarted as a retaliation measure for the recent attack.

South Korea's top military officer told the troops to sternly strike back against North Korea if provoked.

South Korea resumed the broadcasts on Aug. 10, six days after two South Korean soldiers lost limbs when they stepped on the land mines.

North Korea has bristled at South Korea's propaganda campaign amid concern that an influx of outside information could pose a threat to its leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korea has accused the North of planting the mines inside the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, a charge denied by North Korea.

Park said the land mine attack is a "clear military provocation that was intended to kill or injure our soldiers."

"We need to maintain a strong military readiness to protect our people's lives and their properties from North Korea's provocations ... at a time when military threats posed by North Korea are on the rise," Park said in a Cabinet meeting.

The same day South Korea launched the four-day annual Ulchi exercise to check South Korea's capabilities in dealing with national contingencies.

The drill has been held every year following North Korea's botched attempt in 1968 to assassinate then-President Park Chung-hee -- the late father of the current president -- by sending a group of commandos to infiltrate Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office.

The four-day exercise coincides with the annual joint military Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise between South Korea and the United States, which North Korea condemns as a rehearsal for invasion.

Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said such exercises are purely defensive in nature.

Also Monday, Park asked officials to make efforts to ensure that the parliament can ratify a series of free trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Vietnam and New Zealand.

South Korea has been aggressively pushing to ink FTAs with trade partners in recent years to boost growth in the country's export-driven economy.


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