Park urges ‘proactive’ defense upgrade

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Park urges ‘proactive’ defense upgrade

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President Park Geun-hye salutes as she inspects troops during the 65th Korea’s Armed Forces Day anniversary ceremony at Seoul’s military airport in Seongnam, yesterday. The event shifted its venue to central Seoul later in the afternoon for a massive one-hour military parade - the first in 10 years - that stretched from Sungnyemun to Gwanghwamun and was broadcast live. [NEWSIS]

President Park Geun-hye vowed yesterday to build a more proactive national defense system as a deterrent to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

“While maintaining the powerful Korea-U.S. joint defense system, the government will secure defense measures such as a ‘kill-chain’ capacity and the Korea Air and Missile Defense [KAMD] earlier than planned so that North Korea will realize on its own that the nuclear weapons and missiles it is obsessed with are no longer useful,” the president said in an address at a ceremony celebrating the 65th anniversary of Korea’s Armed Forces Day.

The event at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, also marked the 60th anniversary of the truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and started the Korea-U.S. alliance.

In her speech, the President noted that the true value of military forces lies in preventing, not waging, war.

“The security environment of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia is very serious,” she said.

“North Korea is sticking to an agenda of developing nuclear weapons and its technologies are increasingly upgraded.”

A kill chain, one of the two measures President Park mentioned as a deterrent, is the ability to pre-emptively take out a target with missiles or fighter jets.

After escalated tension on the Korean Peninsula and a series of nuclear tests, the Blue House, jointly with the Ministry of National Defense, has recently completed an agenda to step up national defense capabilities, assigning a larger budget next year. Under the plans, a kill-chain capability will be established by 2016 and KAMD by 2017.

How early the South Korean government could adopt both schemes is significant, analysts say, in that they could determine whether Seoul will again ask Washington to delay the transfer of wartime operation control of Korean troops, now scheduled for December 2015. The initial target was 2012 before it was pushed back by three years.

Extension of the transfer of wartime operation control may be linked to whether South Korea joins in the ballistic missile interception programs deployed by the U.S. and Japan against the North’s nuclear threats.

During his visit to Seoul, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday implied this by telling U.S. reporters accompanying him that “missile defense [MD]” is a huge part of the capabilities that Korean military forces should be equipped with before it gets wartime operation control from the U.S.

His remarks sparked speculation here that the U.S. is trying to add pressure on South Korea to make its self-developed KAMD part of the MD led by the U.S. and Japan, although South Korea’s Defense Ministry denied it. The ministry said Hagel’s comments were meant to emphasize the necessity for information exchanges between KAMD and MD.

Meanwhile, the South Korean government mobilized the largest Armed Forces Day celebration in 10 years as a means to show off its military prowess.

The military unveiled cutting-edge weapons to the public during a three-hour ceremony yesterday morning in the presence of the president, government officials and families of men of national merit. The weapons included a South Korea-developed long-range cruise missile with a range of over 1,000 kilometers (621.4 miles) and a guided missile that is capable of delivering an artillery shell into a tunnel in North Korea.

The event shifted its venue to central Seoul later in the afternoon for a massive one-hour military parade - the first in 10 years - that stretched from Sungnyemun to Gwanghwamun and was broadcast live.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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