South Korean Leader Marks Anniversary of War’s End With Warnings to North Korea


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President Park Geun-hye urged North Korea on Saturday to learn from Cuba’s moves to improve relations with the United States, saying the North had been “walking in the other direction.”

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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

SEOUL, South Korea — President Park Geun-hye of South Korea on Saturday urged North Korea to stop what she called military provocations on the border, hours after the North threatened to attack loudspeakers that the South has begun using to blast propaganda messages into North Korea.

Ms. Park’s comments, in a speech marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the Korean Peninsula, then unified, from Japanese rule, came a week and a half after two South Korean soldiers were badly wounded by land mines that the South says were planted by the North in the demilitarized zone now dividing the Koreas.

“North Korea must wake up from its delusional belief that it can maintain its regime through provocations and threats,” Ms. Park said during her speech. “They lead only to isolation and destruction.”

South Korean leaders have traditionally marked the anniversary of the war’s end, called Liberation Day here, with a speech expressing hope for Korean reunification. The end of Japanese colonial rule seven decades ago was soon followed by Korea’s division, as the Soviet Union installed a Communist government in the north and the United States a capitalist one in the south.

Ms. Park’s speech on Saturday included both condemnations and overtures directed at North Korea. She urged it to learn from Cuba’s moves to improve relations with the United States, but said the North had been “walking in the other direction,” referring to its nuclear weapons development, executions of officials deemed disloyal to the government and recent provocations along the border.

Ms. Park also reiterated the South’s accusation that the North had planted the mines that maimed the soldiers, near their outpost on the southern side of the demilitarized zone. One soldier lost both his legs to a mine, and the other lost one. North Korea has denied planting the mines, accusing the South of fabricating evidence that it had done so.

Ms. Park also offered suggestions for improving relations, saying that the Koreas could resume their sporadic efforts to reunite families separated by the Korean War of 1950-53, and could build trust by cooperating on fighting floods, droughts and epidemics, as well as sponsoring joint sports and cultural events.

“For Koreans, the real liberation from colonial rule is not completed until we have reunification,” she said.

Hours before Ms. Park’s speech, the North Korean military issued an “open warning” vowing to launch “unrestrained attacks” on the South Korean loudspeakers along the border if they were not removed, according to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea responded that it would target “the origins of attack” if its loudspeakers were hit by North Korean shells.

Both Koreas used such loudspeakers to broadcast propaganda at the border for decades until 2004, during a period of reconciliation, when they agreed to stop the practice. South Korea considered resuming the broadcasts in 2010, after one of its naval ships was sunk by what it said was a North Korean torpedo, but decided against it. This past week, the South activated the loudspeakers after 11 years, in response to the maiming of the soldiers at the border.

In her address on Saturday, Ms. Park also responded to the closely watched speech on Friday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, in which he reiterated his country’s past expressions of remorse for World War II but did not offer a new apology of his own. Ms. Park said the speech “left much to be desired” and said Japan’s words should be backed up with “consistent and sincere conduct.”



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