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Unification minister says now is not the time for dialogue with Pyongyang

All News 15:29 July 26, 2016

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification minister said Tuesday now is not the right time to hold talks with North Korea as Pyongyang continues to ramp up its saber-rattling over Seoul's decision to deploy an advanced U.S. anti-missile defense system in the country.

On July 19, a week after it warned of "physical" counter-actions against the decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea by 2017, Pyongyang test-fired three ballistic missiles and made clear that the move aims to help its troops conduct pre-emptive strikes against ports and airfields in the South.

"The North's threat of pre-emptive strikes is something that didn't exist in the past. It has escalated its military provocations in recent weeks following the THAAD decision," Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said in a meeting with reporters in central Seoul.

As North Korea appears to have both the "willingness and capability" to step up its military threats against the South and the U.S., this is not the time to sit down with Pyongyang to engage in dialogue, but to continue to put pressure on it so it will opt to give up its nuclear weapons and missile development programs, he said.

The policymaker said, however, it seems "very hard to induce Pyongyang to desert its nuclear ambitions" given that the communist country has never stopped carrying out a nuclear-related test in the past decade.

"Against this backdrop, the decision to install a THAAD battery here was inevitable for South Korea to better cope with the ever-growing nuclear and missile threats from the North," the minister said.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. Its fourth nuclear test in January resulted in the toughest-ever sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council on it.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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