Korea, China to establish a new defense phone line

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Korea, China to establish a new defense phone line

South Korea and China agreed in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed Wednesday to set up a direct telephone line between their defense chiefs.

Kim Min-seok, the spokesman for the Korean Ministry of National Defense, said in a briefing yesterday in Seoul that establishing a direct high-level military hotline “will play a role as a communication channel to invigorate the military cooperation of each country and assure security in the Northeast Asia region.”

On Wednesday, Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo met with Wang Guanzhong, China’s deputy chief of general staff for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, in Beijing to hold the fourth round of strategic bilateral defense talks.

At the meeting, the two defense officials signed the MOU, which is expected to enable the hotline to be up and running by the end of this year.

“At a Korea-China defense minister summit in 2011, the two countries’ defense ministries agreed to establish a hotline, and the signing of this MOU will really enable this,” Kim said.

However, the exact date that the hotline will be established will be announced at a later date, Kim said.

Once the hotline is operational, the South Korean military expects to have better, faster communication with China on issues involving North Korea.

A defense ministry official said that Baek and Wang also discussed a direct telephone line between the two nation’s army and navy branches in order to prevent accidental military clashes in the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea. In addition, the two spoke on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Baek requested Beijing’s active cooperation in denuclearizing North Korea to work toward peace and unification on the peninsula.

They agreed to increase defense cooperation between China and Korea through both high-level communication as well as exchanges between delegations of young military officials.

Currently, Seoul’s only direct military defense ministerial hotline is with Washington. China and Korea have used naval and air force hotline channels since 2008 to help prevent accidental clashes at sea and in the air.

The two countries had talked about establishing a direct military hotline since 2007, but at that time China had been passive on the issue because of its relationship with its traditional ally North Korea.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]



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