New posture goes beyond rules of engagement
The South Korean military will exercise self-defense based on an “act first, report later” principle, as ordered by Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin during a meeting to discuss measures to improve the military after the Yeonpyeong Island attack.
The new battle principles were announced at a large-scale meeting headed by the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which was attended by roughly 150 military commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force yesterday in Seoul.
“This is the first security crisis since the Korean War,” said Minister Kim at the meeting. “We must prepare for additional provocations from the North. The people’s trust in the military, which has fallen, as well as military morale and discipline, should be put in order. And we must recover our readiness.”
The new policy will go beyond the current rules of engagement and not be bound by U.S. wartime control of South Korean forces, the minister said.
“The commanders of each military service will give orders for self-defense,” said Jang Gwang-il, head of defense policy at the ministry. “Self-defense will be exercised until the origin of the provocation is hit, and [the retaliation] will not be bound by the Korean War cease-fire agreement or rules of battle.” Jang said that the U.S. and South Korea had a mutual understanding on the issue.
Jang also called for the preparing of more troops for battle on the field. He also ordered higher-ranking officials to simplify orders for those lower on the chain of command to give them more leeway to act quickly and creatively in an emergency.
The defense minister pointed out several problems plaguing South Korea’s military: forgetting the Koreas are still technically at war, a casual attitude toward national defense and spending more time on paperwork than on combat preparation.
Meanwhile, U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a swift departure for Seoul yesterday local time, which U.S. military officials have said was unscheduled.
John Kirby, Mullen’s spokesman, said the decision to send Mullen was decided late last week. The trip, Kirby said, is intended to reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to its alliance with South Korea.
The spokesman said that the hurried visit should not be interpreted as an “emergency trip,” although he characterized the situation on the Korean Peninsula as being “tense.”
Mullen is scheduled to meet with South Korea’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Han Min-koo, as well as other government officials.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that Mullen will go to Tokyo after his trip to Seoul and that he would be leading a delegation to “enhance coordination on strategic deterrents.” Clinton added that another delegation of high-ranking officials would visit South Korea next week to continue negotiations on various levels.
South Korea started firing exercises on its surrounding waters Monday, including the west coast, where North Korea bombarded a South Korean island last month.
By Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]