Sunday May 08, 2022

South Korea’s new president set to get tough on North

South Korea’s new president set to get tough on North

Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a press briefing in Seoul. File/AFP

South Korea's hawkish new president will be sworn in Tuesday, and he looks set to get tough with Pyongyang, departing from what he has called the "subservient" approach of his predecessor.

For the past five years, Seoul has pursued a policy of engagement with North Korea, brokering summits between Kim Jong Un and then-US president Donald Trump while reducing joint US military drills Pyongyang sees as provocative.


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But talks collapsed in 2019 and have languished since, while the nuclear-armed North has dramatically ramped up weapons tests, conducting 15 so far this year, including the launch of its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korea’s new president set to get tough on North
South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol (centre) arrives to attend an event in Seoul on Sunday. AP

Unlike outgoing President Moon Jae-in, who saw North Korea as a negotiating partner, incoming leader Yoon Suk-yeol sees the country as an adversary, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.

Yoon has pledged to officially define Pyongyang as South Korea's "principal enemy", Cheong added, and has not ruled out pre-emptive strikes on the North.

This hard-line stance appears to have already annoyed Pyongyang.

On Thursday, North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said Yoon was stirring up "confrontational madness" and it was "preposterous" for him to discuss pre-emptive strikes.

Agence France-Presse




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