Lee calls N.Korea ‘naughty child‘
President Lee Myung-bak is stepping up his rhetorical offensive on North Korea at a time when some experts say Pyongyang’s third nuclear test is imminent.
During a special question-andanswer session with children on Children’s Day, Saturday, Lee scolded Pyongyang for being a “naughty child” who refused to listen to the international community asking it to exercise restraint ahead of its failed April 13th rocket launch.
“Unfortunately the North did not heed the advice,” Lee said, adding that Pyongyang was pursuing nuclear weapons at the expense of the health of North Korean children.
Hopes for a breakthrough with the North remain low as Pyongyang reiterated Sunday its vow to push on with its nuclear weapons program.
In a statement, the North’s foreign ministry said it would “doggedly safeguard” its related programs in response to an appeal from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, Britain, China, Russia and France — for the regime to stand down from its provocations.
The new Pyongyang leadership has been upset over what it called defamatory remarks during its celebrations last month for country founder Kim Il-sung.
Seoul is disenchanted over the launch which breached a North Korea-U.S. deal, strengthening Lee’s real-politick stance on Pyongyang.
Under the deal, the impoverished state stood to gain 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance for halting uranium enrichment and other steps to slow its nuclear weapons program.
Seoul estimates the North spent $850 million on the launch, while a nuclear expert last week said Pyongyang has shelled out at least $6.58 billion over decades for its nuclear weapons program.
“The message is that North Korea should focus on caring for its people instead of spending lavish amounts of money on weapons,” one Seoul official said.
“This government has been consistent about that, but it is more focused now,” following reports on the high price tags.
On Friday, the South notified the impoverished North to cough up for a low-interest loan to pay for food aid delivered from 2000- 2007 during a decade of rapprochement.
The first payment is due early next month.
Lee has also urged Pyongyang to give up its collective farm system and pay more heed to human rights and treat defectors more humanely, comments likely to rile North Korean leaders.
At the same time he has made clear that Seoul will respond strongly to any provocation. He paid a symbolic visit last month to the Agency for Defense Development in Daejeon for a briefing on new ballistic and cruise missiles capable of targeting anywhere in the North.
“If we are strong, (North Korea) cannot make provocations. North Korea makes provocations when we are weak,” he said at the time.