SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis called Thursday for peace and unity on the war-divided Korean Peninsula and for both sides to avoid “fruitless” criticisms and shows of force, offering a message of reconciliation at the start of a five-day visit to South Korea that received a stark response from the North.
North Korea fired three short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast about an hour before Pope Francis landed in Seoul, and two others a short while later. North Korea has conducted several such tests this year, and it also has a long history of making sure it is not forgotten during high-profile events in the South.
Neither Pope Francis nor South Korean President Park Geun-hye referred to the firings in their speeches at Seoul’s presidential palace, and the Vatican spokesman sought to downplay the incident altogether, saying he wasn’t even sure the pope had been told.
In the first speech of his first trip to Asia, Pope Francis told Ms. Park, government officials and regional diplomats that peace required justice — and that justice in turn requires forgiveness, cooperation and mutual respect. He said diplomacy must be encouraged so that listening and dialogue replace “mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force.”
North Korea’s apparent test firing was conducted from Wonsan on its east coast, according to a South Korean Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules. It wasn’t immediately clear what the projectiles were.East Asia - Asia - China - Greater China - South Korea - Seoul - Beijing - North Korea - China government - Xi Jinping - Park Geun-hye - South Korea government - Pope Francis - Pope John Paul II - Alitalia