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S. Korea poses no threat to North: president

SEOUL -- President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday said South Korea posed no security threat to North Korea even as he urged parliament to get behind reforms aimed at modernizing the South's military.

In a parliamentary budget speech, Lee also called on the communist state to give up its pursuit of missile and nuclear programs and instead focus on the needs of its impoverished population.

“There is no country in the world that threatens North Korea. We have no intention whatsoever to subvert the North's system or seek unification through absorption,” he said in the speech read by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik.

“Genuine threats to North Korea do not come from the outside, but from within,” he said, urging Pyongyang to open its doors to the world, enhance living standards and embrace human rights.

North Korea abandoned six-nation talks on its nuclear program in April 2009 because of what it described as U.S. hostility. It conducted its second nuclear test the following month, sparking international condemnation and sanctions.

It also staged a failed rocket launch in April this year in what it said was an attempt to put a satellite into orbit.

The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the exercise as breaching a ban on the testing of ballistic missile technology and tightened sanctions.

“North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles should never be allowed as they impose security threats not only to the Korean peninsula but to the rest of the world,” Lee said.

His speech also called for parliamentary support for a long-delayed drive to reform the military as South Korea prepares to assume wartime operational control over its armed forces from the United States in 2015.

“Now is the time for us to push strongly with defense reform aimed to build a strong and advanced army and prepare for the warfare of the future,” Lee said.

The reforms envisage a change of command structures and streamlining the military into a more effective, high-tech force with rapid-response capability.

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