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(3rd LD) Park warns of stronger sanctions against N. Korea over possible provocation

All News 01:37 April 01, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments by Park; ADDS photo)
By Kim Kwang-tae

WASHINGTON, March 31 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye warned North Korea against staging another provocation as she met Thursday with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

North Korea is under growing international pressure to drop its nuclear ambitions after it carried out its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea that call for, among other things, the mandatory inspection of all cargo going into and out of the North, and a ban on the country's exports of coal and other mineral resources to cut off North Korea's access to hard currency.

"I warn once again that North Korea will face stronger sanctions and isolation if the North carries out another provocation," Park said at the trilateral summit, apparently referring to North Korea's possible nuclear test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country will soon conduct "a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads" in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.

South Korea believes the North could conduct a fifth nuclear test at any time.

Park said North Korea should recognize that it cannot survive unless it drops its nuclear program.

North Korea has repeatedly vowed to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal in tandem, a policy Seoul and Washington have said is a dead end for the country.

Park also vowed to strengthen efforts to help improve the dismal human rights situation in North Korea.

In December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution for the second consecutive year that calls for referring the North to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.

North Korea has long been accused of grave human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions.

Still, the North has denied any rights abuses, describing the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

Park also said she agreed with Obama and Abe to strengthen cooperation on climate change, counter-terrorism, health care and other global issues.

Separately, Park held one-on-one summit with Obama and is set to hold two separate talks with Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Obama is set to meet with Xi to address the threat posed by North Korea, according to the White House.

Park is likely to ask China to play an active role in reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk told reporters.

"We've seen China step up in many ways in terms of applying pressure. The fact is, it has to over time affect the calculus of the North Korean leadership," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said in the press call.

China, the North's last major ally and economic benefactor, has voted in favor of the toughest U.N. sanctions and vowed to strictly enforce them, in a sign of departure from its previous reluctance to put pressure on North Korea.

China has long been worried that tougher measures against North Korea could destabilize its communist neighbor and trigger an influx of North Koreans across the porous border.

The back-to-back summits come on the margins of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit meant to discuss how to tackle the threats of nuclear terrorism and how to strengthen an international regime for nuclear security.


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