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(3rd LD) Park calls for parliamentary support to pressure N.K. over nuke program

All News 13:31 June 13, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with Park's remarks with parliamentary leaders in paras 19-22)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Monday urged for parliamentary support to pressure North Korea into renouncing its nuclear ambitions and breaking out of international isolation, stressing that Pyongyang's nuclear program poses a "fundamental" hurdle to enhancing cross-border relations.

During her speech marking the launch of the newly elected National Assembly, Park also criticized Pyongyang's recent overtures for dialogue, casting them as a "deceitful" tactic and expressing concerns that they would blunt international momentum to press it to move towards denuclearization.

"Making the offer for dialogue without any denuclearization steps is only a deceit intended to change the situation (where they are pressured under sanctions)," Park said in her fifth speech at the Assembly.

"There can't be any compromise on the issues of security that are directly linked to the lives and safety of our citizens," she added, underscoring that the government would take "all necessary measures" to guard against the North's nuclear and missile threats.

Some 500 people attended the ceremony celebrating the opening of the 20th Assembly. Park was accompanied by her chief of staff Lee Won-jong, senior secretary for political affairs Kim Jae-won and other related aides.

Park also used her speech to call on the opposition-led legislature to support government efforts to enhance the livelihoods of people by passing a series of bills, including those on labor reform, that have languished amid partisan wrangling at the previous Assembly.

"I call for your cooperation in passing a set of bills directly related to people's livelihoods at an earlier date so that we can lessen the pain of the people," she said, pledging to pursue "active" communication and cooperation with the legislature.

Since the ruling Saenuri Party lost a majority in the 300-seat Assembly following its crushing defeat in the April 13 general elections, Park has been seeking to forge cooperative ties with the opposition bloc.

In the elections, the ruling party bagged only 122 seats, while the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and the minor People's Party won 123 and 38 seats, respectively. The Minjoo Party lost one seat as Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun suspended his party affiliation under a parliamentary rule.

In a show of her desire to warm up ties with the opposition bloc, she said that she would hold a meeting with the leaders of the three major parties on a regular basis and "respect" the Assembly as a partner for the management of state affairs.

"I ask the 20th Assembly to become the hall of cooperation and harmony and to take the side of the people," she said.

Touching on the ailing shipbuilding industry, Park said that restructuring in the sector should be carried out in a "proactive and principled" manner to prevent the country's shipbuilding capabilities from being adversely affected by the rehabilitation efforts.

The government has been seeking to help normalize local shipbuilders that have suffered huge losses due to increased costs stemming from a delay in the construction of offshore facilities and a worldwide dearth in demand.

To support the unemployed and create jobs, the president urged the legislature to back government efforts to reform the labor sector. She also called on it to pass a series of deregulatory bills, saying deregulation is key to propelling the country into the ranks of advanced economies.

During his speech, Assembly speaker Chung pledged to go "full throttle" to address a slew of challenges facing the country, ranging from regional geopolitical tensions to a cross-border standoff and youth unemployment.

"Though it is frustrating, all these issues are those which the 20th National Assembly should go full throttle to tackle," he said in his speech.

Noting that the National Assembly has so far deepened divisions rather than addressing them and encouraging national unity, the parliamentary chief stressed the importance of achieving national unity through dialogue, compromise and "deep" deliberation.

"The National Assembly should be the place where we chart the future of the Republic of Korea's liberal democracy by achieving national integration," he said.

After her speech, Park spoke briefly with Chung and the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties.

"I congratulate you on having undertaken the important mantle (of the parliamentary chairmanship) at a crucial juncture," she told Chung.

"I hope that you can make the Assembly one that lives up to people's expectations."

Chung, in response, appreciated her visit to the Assembly, pledging to "actively" support efforts to revitalize the economy.


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