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Top diplomat warns of bigger N. Korean provocations this year

All News 17:06 January 02, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea may face a higher risk of North Korean military provocations this year, the country's foreign minister said Monday, vowing unprecedented powerful punitive actions against Pyongyang.

"This year will be a period when (military) provocations involving North Korea could become considerably greater," Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told reporters.

"(South Korea's) Diplomatic and security ministries will pre-emptively respond to (such a factor) and, in the event of any provocations, will engage in international collaboration to cope in a strong and resolute manner," the top diplomat noted.

Yun said that this year, the international community will come up with intensive implementation measures in a follow-up to the United Nations Security Council resolutions, which will "reaffirm the situation facing North Korea is quite unprecedentedly stringent."

The policymaker's assessment comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year address a day earlier that the country is in the final stages of preparing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.

"We were actively engaged in research and development of advanced weapons.... We are in the final stages of the preparation to test-launch an ICBM," Kim said in the speech.

Externally, South Korea would face bigger geopolitical uncertainties in 2017, he said, citing the incoming Trump administrations' foreign policy stance as one example.

"What kinds of foreign policy and Asian policy the Trump administration will take would have profound implications on many countries including South Korea," Yun said. "I think (South Korea) may have far more external diplomacy factors this year."

The foreign minister also pledged that South Korea will act promptly to facilitate a summit meeting among leaders of South Korea, China and Japan.

"As soon as an agreement is reached on the date (of the trilateral summit), the ministry will make a decision at the earliest time possible" he said. Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn is likely to represent South Korea in the summit as President Park Geun-hye was impeached last month for alleged influence-peddling suspicions and is awaiting a Constitutional Court ruling.


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