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(LEAD) Park warns against N.K. provocations

All News 14:42 April 28, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks by Park, more info in paras 8-12: RECASTS 7th para)

SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Thursday warned against North Korea's additional nuclear test, stressing that South Korea would never condone any provocative acts that would destabilize regional security.

During a Cabinet meeting, she ordered the government to maintain robust preparedness to ensure national security. Her warning came amid signs of the communist regime preparing for yet another nuclear test at its northeastern Punggye-ri site.

"Ahead of its seventh party congress, Pyongyang has been preparing for an additional nuclear test and it is now in a situation where it can conduct a test anytime it decides to do so," she told a gathering of key government officials.

"Should it push ahead with another nuclear test, this would be very serious provocative behavior that would shake the security order of Northeast Asia and we can never condone it," she added.

The North has been gearing up to hold a rare congress of the ruling Workers' Party -- for the first time in 36 years. The congress is scheduled to begin next Friday.

Analysts have anticipated that the North might conduct another strategic provocation ahead of the key political gathering to show off its nuclear capabilities as well as bolster Kim Jong-un's leadership. Kim has been ruling the country since the death of his father in late 2011.

Later in the day, Park presided over a session of the National Security Council to check military readiness against possible North Korean provocations.

While pointing to the double whammy of a security crisis on the peninsula and a global economic slowdown, Park sounded an optimistic note, saying that with national unity, her country can tide over those challenges.

"We have written a great history of weathering trials and tribulations as we would unite whenever we were in dire straits," she said. "If we muster up people's power and wisdom, we can surely overcome the challenges that we face now."

Thursday's Cabinet meeting was held for the first time since the ruling Saenuri Party suffered a crushing defeat in the parliamentary elections some two weeks ago.

In the new National Assembly, whose four-year term will begin on May 30, the ruling party will no longer have a majority, making it necessary for Park to secure opposition consent to push for her economic reform agenda.

She renewed her calls for parliamentary support for her management of state affairs, emphasizing the pressing need to revitalize the economy.


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