Defense chief disparages Jong-un

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Defense chief disparages Jong-un

South Korea’s national defense chief, Han Min-koo, derided North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s character on international television in his latest appeal to the global community over why South Korea urgently needs a U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery.

“He has a rash and impulsive character,” Han told CNN during an interview, released Tuesday, on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit in Singapore.

“Kim Jong-un was just 27 when he came to power, with very little time to prepare,” he said.

The comments were made in response to CNN Seoul correspondent Paul Hancocks’ remarks that many experts and government officials claim Kim Jong-un seems to be more unpredictable than his father, Kim Jong-il.

Adding to his description of Kim’s personality, Han noted the number of missile tests during each regime, highlighting that 18 missile tests were conducted during Kim Jong-il’s 18-year reign, as opposed to 25 missile tests during Kim Jong-un’s 4-year term.

“The whole world knows about North Korea’s missile capabilities, ranging from short- to mid- to long-range [missiles], and some are still developing,” CNN quoted him as saying. “South Korea only has the capacity to intercept a missile at its terminal phase, so we have limitations.”

As to how the deployment of Thaad would benefit Seoul, Han said the South Korean military’s capability will be “dramatically enhanced.”

Han’s latest remarks were made in perhaps the bluntest tone yet regarding why Seoul needs the 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) radar system in spite of fierce opposition from Moscow and Beijing, who worry that it could be used as a possible means of surveillance against their governments.

Seoul and Washington officially launched working-level talks on the Thaad system in early March by signing a “term of reference” agreement. U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Peter Cook said Monday during a regular briefing that both sides were currently cooperating to solve “complicated issues” pertinent to Thaad’s deployment.

Over the weekend, Han and his Chinese counterpart experienced a rare moment of public conflict during the defense summit as Beijing insisted Thaad was “more than necessary.”

Pyongyang, which has previously hurled expletives at Han, calling him at one point “a moron among morons,” has yet to respond to Han’s latest statement.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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