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September 22, 2017

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'Merciless' response awaits North Korea challenge: SK

SEOUL -- South Korea's president Tuesday warned Seoul would react "mercilessly to any provocations" from the North, describing the situation over the border as "ominous" as she visited a frontline guard post.

Seoul and Washington have been increasingly concerned over the stability of the North Korean regime following the execution two weeks ago of Jang Song Thaek, a high-level official and uncle of young leader Kim Jong Un.

"The security situation on the Korean peninsula is very grave. North Korea's internal situation is ominous, raising concerns about provocations," said South Korean President Park Geun-hye, wearing a military uniform on her first visit to the tense border since taking office in February.

"We should react sternly and mercilessly to any provocations by North Korea," she said, calling for "watertight security readiness".

Her warning came as Kim, flanked by senior military officials, visited the mausoleum of his late father in Pyongyang to pay his respects on an important anniversary.

Kim visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses the embalmed bodies of his late father and grandfather, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was formally made the country's top military commander on Dec. 24 in 1991 — three years before the death of his own father and the country's founding president, Kim Il Sung.

TV news footage showed Kim, clad in a dark Mao suit, standing before the white statues of his two predecessors, accompanied by dozens of uniformed military officials who bowed deeply toward the statues.

Among the top military cadres accompanying the young ruler were Choe Ryong Hae, the director of the military's political department, and defense chief Jang Jong Nam, KCNA said.

The visit came 12 days after Kim executed his once-powerful uncle in the biggest political upheaval since he took power after the death of his father two years ago.

Jang Song Thaek, once the country's unofficial number two, was executed on Dec. 12 after being accused of corruption and plotting a coup.

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