South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, in vowing relentless retaliation if provoked again by North Korea, says his country wants peace. But, he told the nation, fear of war is never helpful in preventing war.
Lee made the statement in his final biweekly radio address of the year, Monday. The president called for national unity, saying North Korea looks for division in the South as an opportunity to attack.
Lee called for unity, when it comes to national security, saying, “Our lives and the survival of the nation depend on it.”
The president referred to North Korea as the most belligerent government on earth.
The conservative president’s rhetoric has grown increasingly tough since the November 23 attack of Yeonpyeong island, which killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. Lee, his government and the military faced criticism for a slow, confusing and tepid response.
Since then, there has been a series of war games in the South, two exercises involved U.S. forces, on land and at sea.
The latest drill by South Korean marines, is being held this week.
Defense officials say gunnery exercises will be held at 23 locations, including 12 sites off the west coast. But officials say there will be no firing near the Northern Limit Line. That is the maritime border in the Yellow Sea which North Korea has never recognized.
Pyongyang justified its shelling last month of Yeonpyeong as a reaction to provocative artillery shelling from the island into the disputed waters.
Tensions rose on the peninsula in March when a South Korean warship exploded and sank in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors. An international investigation concluded the Cheonan was hit by a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang has denied responsibility.
Monday, President Lee said it was divided public opinion in the South after the torpedo attack that prompted North Korea to shell Yeonpyeong island.
Defense researchers here say additional attacks by the North in the Yellow Sea are highly possible, next year.
A report by the Institute for National Security Strategy released Sunday concludes North Korea could attack five islands in the disputed maritime region off the west coast.
It says this is tied to the power transition in Pyongyang, with military leaders there vying to express their loyalty to heir apparent Kim Jong Un, the son of leader Kim Jong Il.
There are no diplomatic relations between the two Koreas. The South and North technically remain in a state of war since a 1953 truce halted three years of open warfare between the