S. Korea vows to maintain pressure, sanctions on N. Korea in 2017

South Korea vowed Wednesday to maintain its hardline policy of pressure and sanctions on North Korea, while making diplomatic efforts to isolate the latter further.

Seoul's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said in its annual plan report to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is serving as acting president, that its hardline policy will be maintained in 2017 to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and cause a right change in the northern neighbor.

The foreign ministry said in its separate report that it will put diplomatic pressures on North Korea from all sides by cutting off the source of funds, deepening a diplomatic isolation further and cooperating with major countries to implement UN Security Counsil resolutions.

Hwang said in the reporting session of security and foreign affairs that this year can be an inflection point for North Korea's nuclear issue, noting that the issue is the biggest challenge to security and the biggest obstacle to peace and reunification of the two Koreas.

Despite all-out efforts to resolve the issue under current and previous governments, Hwang said, Pyongyang just continued nuclear detonations in response.

The reports indicated the government's adherence to the stance on North Korea's nuclear issue, tainted by intensive nuclear tests by Pyongyang in the past decade under conservative presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.

The two South Korean leaders sticked to the "strategic patience," offering a conditional dialogue with Pyongyang. During the decade-long deadlock, Pyongyang's nuclear and missile capabilities advanced at a faster speed.

North Korea detonated its second and third atomic devices in May 2009 and February 2013 respectively under the Lee Myung-bak administration. The fourth and fifth nuclear tests were carried out in January and September 2016 each under the impeached president.

Pyongyang, the reports forecast, will continue to pursue its ambition for a nuclear state position, while seeking to alter the current phase of anti-North Korea sanctions.

Top North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his new year address that his country entered a final stage in preparations for the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic rocket in near future.

North Korea's 2016 moves entailed tougher-than-ever sanctions from the international community, but some South Korean experts predicted additional nuclear and missile tests this year to increase its bargaining power with new governments both in the United States and South Korea.

The Trump administration is set to be launched later this month, while an early presidential election is forecast to be held in South Korea, possibly in the first half given that President Park was impeached on Dec. 9.

Expectations are running high in South Korea for the transfer of presidential power from the hawkish conservative bloc to the liberal camp, which usually argues for rapprochement approach to Pyongyang.

Key presidential contenders of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party have called for the resumption of long-stalled talks with North Korea to help defuse tensions in northeast Asia.

Source: Philippines News Agency