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Defense minister underlines need for military preparedness

Dec 05,2019
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Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and all major commanders salute to the national flag during a biannual meeting of top commanders held at the ministry compound in Seoul on Wednesday. [NEWS1]
South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo on Wednesday stressed Seoul needed to keep up its defensive preparedness with respect to the growing military threat from North Korea.

In a year-end meeting between top commanders of South Korea’s armed forces at the ministry headquarters in central Seoul, Jeong underscored the importance of maintaining strict military discipline and a readiness posture in response to a string of provocations from the North, like its 13 tests of short-range ballistic missiles and a super-large multiple rocket launcher throughout the year, as well as its coastal batteries over the last month.

Stressing that it was the duty of South Korea’s commanders to maintain “top-notch fighting capacity” through exercises simulating real-life contingencies, Jeong said the ministry’s foremost objective next year was to make significant progress in its plan to modernize the country’s military by incorporating key fourth industrial revolution technologies.

Jeong also highlighted five major points around which Seoul would design its defense policy next year, including the establishment of a firm defense posture with respect to security threats on all sides, the development of a complementary military alliance with the United States, a strong push to realize defense reform, the creation of a transparent, fair and efficient military administration system and the nurturing of an inclusive culture within the military.

The conference on Wednesday, held biannually, was attended by around 150 of the country’s leading military commanders and defense officials, including Gen. Park Han-ki, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as top figures in different government defense agencies.

Participants of the meeting discussed ways to enhance the South Korean military’s defensive surveillance and monitoring systems and ways to keep up a stable military preparedness while implementing the Sept. 19 joint military agreement signed with Pyongyang.

The defense minister also noted concerns regarding other potential threats to South Korea’s security, like the increased possibilities of aerial clashes with China and Russia as the two countries repeatedly invade Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or Kadiz.

According to a ministry official, the meeting also reviewed the accomplishments made by the country’s military over the last year, which include fostering an environment conducive to the planned transfer of wartime operational control, or Opcon, from Washington to Seoul with an evaluation of South Korea’s initial operational capacity, as well as steps made to realize the Moon Jae-in administration’s signature Defense Reform 2.0, a long-term plan to overhaul the country’s armed forces in line with evolving security challenges in the region.

This year also marked the successful implementation of an “autonomous and responsible” barracks culture, which saw individual soldiers being allowed to use their mobile phones on base and granting them leave on weekdays.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]