South Korean president responds to North Korea's nuclear constitution change

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Monday, April 1, 2013

North Korea's ruling party yesterday unveiled a plan to sign its right to build a nuclear bomb into its constitution. South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye responded by saying that provocations from North Korea would trigger decisive military action as the war-like rhetoric on the peninsula intensifies.

North Korea's declaration that it is pursuing to enshrine its right to make nuclear weapons in its constitution was coupled with a message that strengthening its economy was a priority. This is perceived by some experts as an effort by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to temper the tensions.

"I believe that we should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if (the North) stages any provocation against our people", the South Korean president said at a meeting with military officials and Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin earlier today, while reaffirming she was taking North Korea's threats very seriously. The Defence Minister did not rule out pre-emptive strikes against the North's nuclear and missile installations if need be.

The United States responded by sending stealth fighters to South Korea to take part in military drills.

North Korea, whose parliament is scheduled to hold its annual parliamentary session later today, had issued a series of threats over the past months, including a declaration over the weekend that it was entering a "state of war" with the South. The tension escalated following Pyongyang's suspected ballistic missile test in December and a nuclear test in February. The United Nations imposed fresh sanctions following these moves, much to the North's irritation.

"There was a danger that this was getting to the point ... of a permanent war footing," John Delury, an analyst at Seoul's Yonsei University specialising in North Korea, told the Associated Press. "In the midst of this tension and militant rhetoric and posturing, Kim Jong Un is saying, Look, we're still focused on the economy, but we're doing it with our nuclear deterrent intact."

South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is expected to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry this week in Washington to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported.