South Korea's Yoon warns of stern retaliation in case of North Korea's provocation


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden at the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea, May 21, 2022. Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool via REUTERS/Files

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered the military on Wednesday to "promptly and sternly" retaliate in case of any North Korean provocation amid concerns the North could conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

Yoon, who took office in May, presided over his first meeting with top military commanders and called for strong capabilities to deter North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, the presidential office said.

North Korea has this year been conducting missile tests at an unprecedented pace, and is believed to be preparing for its seventh nuclear test.

The military meeting took place a day after U.S. Air Force F-35A stealth fighters arrived in South Korea on their first publicly announced visit since 2017 as the allies and the nuclear-armed North engage in an escalating cycle of displays of weapons.

"President Yoon said strong defence capabilities should be ready to protect the country's security and national interest as the security uncertainties surrounding South Korea and Northeast Asia are growing more than ever," according to the presidential office.

Last week, Yoon met with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid and agreed to explore further means to reinforce "extended deterrence" against North Korea.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill)

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