South Korea’s Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo has called for an “unshakable” readiness posture in the process of implementing an inter-Korean military accord aimed at reducing tensions and building trust, his office said Monday.
Jeong made the call on Friday in his first “command letter” to all armed services since he took office in September, amid worries that the accord could lead to a weakening of South Korea’s defense posture when the North has yet to take tangible steps towards denuclearization.
“There shouldn’t be any wavering in our military’s readiness posture,” Jeong said in the letter sent to all units of the Army, Navy and Air Force. “All commanders must bear this in mind.”
A defense minister usually delivers such a command letter soon after his or her inauguration. It usually entails the minister’s philosophy, vision or policy direction for guiding the armed services.
The inter-Korean accord was signed in September soon after the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. It includes a series of measures such as disarming the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone and setting up air, maritime and ground buffer zones around the border.
The accord has stoked fears that with uncertainties still hanging over the prospects of the North’s nuclear disarmament, the South’s military could be put at a disadvantage due to a series of arms control measures.
Jeong said that the accord itself is aimed at protecting citizens’ freedom and their peaceful life.
“(The measures in the accord) are possible as our military has strong power and pride enough (to allow them to happen),” he said.
In the letter, the minister also stressed the importance of building a combined defense system with the United States, which the South will lead following the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control.
“Our military should push systematically and actively for the preparations of the OPCON transfer,” he said, calling on the military to focus on the evaluation of South Korea’s initial operational capability slated for next year.
Next year, the allies will carry out the IOC certification process, through which they will check whether the South’s military has the basic capability to lead wartime operations. After the IOC verification, the two sides will verify Seoul’s full operational and full mission capabilities.
“(The South’s military) should also get a deep understanding of the combined military force and acquire capabilities to conduct combined operations,” he said.
In addition, Jeong called for greater efforts to prevent troops’ crimes such as sexual violence and drunk driving, stressing the need to shore up public trust. (Yonhap)