Park Geun Hye Visits Military Base Near North Korean Border

Michael Song, Dec. 24, 2015, 10:18 a.m.

President Park Geun-hye checked military readiness against possible North Korean provocations as she made a rare visit to a military base near the border with North Korea, an official said Thursday. Park, wearing a military jacket, commended the soldiers at the military division in Yeoncheon near the central section of the border, for their "resolute" response to North Korea's shelling attacks on Aug. 20, presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk said.

Combined with a land-mine attack earlier in the month, the August shelling escalated military tensions between the two Koreas before they agreed to mend ties in a landmark Aug. 25 agreement. "I want the military to have confidence and maintain watertight combat readiness against North Korea's provocations," Park was quoted as saying.

"I will always rely on the military's judgment on and response to North Korean provocations or any other emergency situations." South Korea always keeps the door open for talks with North Korea, she said, adding that "however, progress in the inter-Korean ties could come only when we have a firm position in readiness and a principled stance.

This visit marked the second time that Park has visited a military base near the border since she took office in 2013. The latest visit came amid lingering concerns over North Korea's possible provocations against South Korea. On Tuesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sun-jin instructed frontline commanders to maintain tight combat readiness, citing the possibility of North Korea's unexpected military provocations.

North Korea's state news agency reported earlier in the day that leader Kim Jong-un ordered his troops to intensify combat drills as he inspected joint military drills. "Practical drills should be conducted so often to cope with the hardest and severest war," Kim was quoted by the Korean Central News Agency. It did not specify the date of Kim's visit.

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