SEOUL-- Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Monday that North Korea's latest long-range missile test has reached a critical point of what Seoul regards as a "red line," warning Pyongyang is closing opportunities for Seoul's peace initiative.
During a meeting with reporters, Lee also said that with the reclusive state's drive to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the security situation on the Korean Peninsula now faces a "fundamental shift."
The North fired off what it claims to have been an ICBM Friday night in a stinging blow to President Moon Jae-in's pursuit of cross-border dialogue and rapprochement. The latest provocation followed the July 4 test of the same Hwasong-14 missile.
"Unfortunately, the North is closing the opportunities for us to realize President Moon's peace initiative and creating the situation that we have warned against ... The July 28 ICBM launch has brought (the North) to a critical point of the red line," he said.
The premier was referring to the comprehensive initiative Moon announced in Berlin earlier this month. Under the initiative, Seoul pursues Pyongyang's denuclearization with a security guarantee, and economic and diplomatic incentives, while seeking a peace treaty and dismissing the prospect of forced unification.
Voicing discontent over the North's repeated provocations, Lee said that "it has become difficult to treat the North as if nothing had happened."
"The Moon administration is doing its utmost to judiciously navigate through the urgent security situation and foreign affairs environment," he said.
"While prioritizing national interests and security in our response to the North's stronger military provocation, our government is in close consultation and sufficient cooperation with concerned countries, including the United States," he added.
The prime minister also used the meeting to dismiss allegations of the government attempting to shirk its responsibility for a high-stakes decision over the fate of two nuclear reactors, calling them "unconvincing and disconcerting."
The allegations emerged last week after a state panel -- tasked with overseeing the public deliberation over whether to cancel the now-suspended construction of the reactors in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul -- said it would not make any final decision on the issue.
The panel's stance was seen as a reversal of the government's pledge that "citizen jurors," selected by the panel, will have the final say. Speculation has since grown that either the panel or the government appears to be passing the buck for the crucial decision.
"There can't be such thing as buck-passing over the issue, because the government, in any case, will make the final decision although it would accept the citizens' opinions in the decision-making process," Lee said.
"What the government means is that it would fully accept the results the panel would reach through (deliberations with) citizens. Thus it is impossible for us to pass the buck in any way," he added.
Source: Yonhap News Agency