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North Korea told to stop wasting resources

New South Korea president Park Geun-hye.

New South Korea president Park Geun-hye.

SEOUL — South Korea’s new president Park Geun-hye urged North Korea today to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and to stop wasting its scarce resources on arms, less than two weeks after the country carried out its third nuclear test.

In her inauguration speech, the country’s first female president, also called on South Koreans to help revive the nation’s export-dependent economy whose trade is threatened by neighbouring Japan’s weak yen policy.

Park, the 61-year-old daughter of South Korea’s former military ruler Park Chung-hee, met with the father of North Korea’s current ruler in 2002 and offered the impoverished and isolated neighbour aid and trade if it abandoned its nuclear programme.

“I urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development,” Park said after being inaugurated.

Park, usually an austere and demure figure in her public appearances, wore an olive-drab military style jacket and lavender scarf and smiled broadly and waved enthusiastically as a 70,000 strong crowd cheered her.

Rap sensation Psy was one of the warm up acts on an early spring day outside the country’s parliament and performed his Gagnam Style hit, but without some of the raunchier actions.

Park’s tough stance was supported by the partisan and largely older crowd at her inauguration.

“I have trust in her as the first female president … She has to be more aggressive on North Korea,” said Jeong Byung-ok, 44, who was at the ceremony with her four-year-old daughter.

North Korea is ruled by 30-year-old Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to hold power in Pyongyang and the grandson of a man who tried to assassinate Park’s father.

The North, which is facing further UN sanctions for its latest nuclear test, which was its biggest and most powerful to date, is unlikely to heed Park’s call and there is little Seoul can do to influence its bellicose neighbour.

Park’s choices boil down to paying off Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons plan, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and failed in 2006 when the North exploded its first nuclear bomb. Alternatively, Seoul could try to further isolate the North, a move that resulted in the 2010 sinking of a South Korean ship and the shelling of a South Korean island. (Reuters)

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