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New South Korea leader offers Pyongyang plan

South Korea
President Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn in at a ceremony in front of parliament in Seoul. Photo: AAP
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South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, says North Korea’s weapons programs pose a threat but he is ready to provide an “audacious” economic plan if the North is committed to denuclearisation.

Mr Yoon gave the remarks in his inauguration speech on Tuesday after being sworn in at a ceremony in front of parliament in Seoul.

He won a tight election in March as the standard bearer of the main conservative People Power Party, less than a year after entering politics after a 26-year career as a prosecutor.

Mr Yoon, 61, will face two major problems as he takes office: a belligerent North Korea testing new weapons and inflation threatening to undermine an economic recovery from two years of COVID-19 gloom.

He has signalled a tougher line on North Korea, warning of a pre-emptive strike if there is a sign of its imminent attack, but his speech was seen highlighting more on his willingness to reopen stalled denuclearisation talks with Pyongyang.

“While North Korea’s nuclear weapon programs are a threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia, the door to dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat,” Mr Yoon said.

“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearisation, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people.”.

Mr Yoon won the election on a platform of fighting corruption and creating a more level economic playing field amid deepening public frustration with inequality and housing prices, as well as simmering gender and generational rivalry.

– AAP