(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with comments by Park and British top diplomat; CHANGES headline)
SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye vowed Tuesday to keep up pressure on North Korea following the land mine attack that maimed two South Korean soldiers.
South Korea accused North Korea of intentionally burying three wooden box land mines on the southern side of the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.
Two South Korean staff sergeants were severely injured as they stepped on the land mines during their patrol mission on Aug. 4.
“Our government will continue to apply pressure on North Korea based on strong deterrence, Park said in a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, according to a press release provided by Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea’s presidential office.
“But in the meantime, we will continue to make efforts for the resumption of dialogue with North Korea.”
South Korea proposed the day after the land mine attack that the two Koreas hold high-level talks. The two Koreas last held high-level talks in February 2014.
Hammond strongly condemned the North’s land mine attack, calling it a breach of the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
“We’ve condemned this unprovoked attack. And North Koreans must be held to account for the breach of the armistice,” he told reporters in a separate visit to a site near Seoul that honors British soldiers killed in the conflict.
Hammond was in Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart.
Park also expressed hope that the recent nuclear deal involving Iran and six world powers would give a boost to international efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The six-nation talks meant to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program were last held in 2008.
North Korea has repeatedly vowed to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal in tandem, viewing its nuclear programs as a powerful deterrent against what it claims is Washington’s hostile policy against it.
Also Tuesday, South Korea urged North Korea to offer an apology over the land mine attack as Seoul’s defense chief vowed to seize initiative along the heavily fortified border.
Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook called the incident a clear provocation and a violation of the inter-Korean nonaggression pact.
“We urge North Korea to offer an apology over the provocation and punish those responsible for it,” Min said.
South and North Korea signed a non-aggression pact in 1991. North Korea has since carried out a series of provocations against South Korea, including two deadly attacks in 2010.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on the North to stop its provocations and resume dialogue to ease tensions on the peninsula.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo said in a meeting with ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers that South Korea’s military will carry out an operation to seize initiative in the demilitarized zone, though he did not elaborate.
In a rare display of unity, the rival parties condemned North Korea’s attack and urged the South Korean government to retaliate against the North.
The ruling party unanimously adopted a resolution that called on North Korea to apologize for the attack and punish those responsible for it.
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy also adopted a similar resolution condemning the North’s attack while urging the Defense Ministry to ensure that North Korea will pay the price for its provocation.
Some 100 conservative activists denounced the attack during a rally near the border with North Korea.
On Monday, South Korea resumed a propaganda loudspeaker campaign along the tensely guarded border for the first time in 11 years in retaliation for the detonation of the North Korean mines.