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Moon requests report on military’s capacity against North

Sept 11,2018
The Blue House asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to submit a report comparing the military strength of both Koreas before the two countries’ leaders meet for their third summit next week, multiple sources told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.

The report will serve as a reference for President Moon Jae-in to discuss arms control with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sources from the Blue House and Ministry of National Defense said.

The sources added that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have completed the report and expect to submit it to Moon in the coming days before he leaves for Pyongyang to meet with Kim. Moon plans to be in the North Korean capital from Sept. 18 to 20.

A military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was recently tapped to serve as defense minister, will deliver the briefing to Moon.

The comparison only focuses on both countries’ conventional forces and excludes the North’s nuclear weapons and U.S. troops in the South, according to another government official.

Another high-level government source said Pyongyang was showing a lot more sincerity in talks on arms control than in the past. “South-North economic cooperation has a lot of limits due to international sanctions against Pyongyang,” the source said, “but military cooperation can be carried out regardless of sanctions as long as both Koreas reach an agreement.”

At their summit, Moon and Kim are expected to discuss a range of issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula, including denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States.

On the agenda, according to sources who spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo, is an earlier agreement in the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Moon and Kim on April 27 during their first summit.

In it, both countries vowed to make joint efforts to “alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war” on the peninsula.

Among military topics that Moon and Kim will likely discuss, they could specifically touch on several agreements that both countries have already made in recent high-level military meetings aimed at easing tension on the border, including demilitarization of the Joint Security Area, withdrawal of guard posts within the demilitarized zone (DMZ), joint excavation of remains of fallen soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War within the DMZ and alleviation of tension near the northern limit line in the Yellow Sea.

Military officials told the JoongAng Ilbo that a similar report comparing the two Koreas’ militaries was done during the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2004 and under Lee Myung-bak in 2009.

In 2004, South Korea’s military assessed that its Army had only 80 percent of the strength that its North Korean counterpart had, while the Navy had 90 percent and Air Force had 103 percent. All in all, South Korea’s military concluded it had only 88 percent of North Korea’s capacity.

That conclusion changed in 2009, when the South Korean military switched to a different calculation method to gauge the combined strength of its Army, Navy and Air Force in the event of a war. South Korea’s military, according to that report, had 110 percent of the North’s military strength.

Moon’s report will be based on the 2009 calculation method, a government source said.

BY KANG TAE-HWA, LEE KEUN-PYUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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