South Korean President Park Geun-hye assured U.S. lawmakers Wednesday that the strength of their alliance and the steps her country has taken will effectively deter provocations from North Korea.
"The Korean government is reacting resolutely but calmly. We are maintaining the highest level of readiness," Park told told a joint meeting of Congress. She added: "Korea's economic fundamentals are strong. Its government is equal to the task. And it is backed by the might of our alliance. So long as this continues, you may rest assured no North Korean provocation can succeed."
Park is on her first overseas trip as president. On Tuesday she met with President Obama at the White House. The two leaders pledged a united front against North Korean aggression in a news conference after their discussions.
Declaring confidence that "trust is the path to peace," Park promised her country would "never accept" a nuclear-armed North Korea and that provocations would be met "decisively." But, she said, she would not link humanitarian aid to people in North Korea to the "political situation."
Park told Congress that North Korea's routine of provoking crisis, prompting sanctions for the international community, and buying time to advance its nuclear capabilities has become all too familiar.
"It is time to put an end to this vicious circle," she said.
Park said the international community must speak with "one voice" with regard to North Korea. She sounded hopeful that through gradual buildup of trust between the two nations, the groundwork for eventual "peaceful reunification" could be laid.
Park became South Korea's first female president in February. She is the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated in 1979.
Park said the U.S.-Korean alliance, which is celebrating its 60th year, should be rooted in three things: A commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula as well as in Northeast Asia, and an effort to promote the pursuit of happiness across the globe.
Thanking American veterans at the top of her speech, Park cited four Korean War veterans serving in Congress: Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Sam Johnson (R-Tex.).