The nation`s new Army chief of staff yesterday urged the South Korean military to exercise vigilance against potential North Korean threats.
"North Korea`s military strength remains a direct and serious threat to our security, so this is a time for utmost readiness from our military," said Gen. Han Min-gu in a speech marking his promotion to the top Army post.
He warned that the current situation is tricky because the North has a two-track strategy alternating between provocation and reconciliatory gestures.
Han yesterday assumed his new post after a ceremony marking the transfer of authority from Gen. Im Choong-bin.
Also yesterday, Lt. Gen. Hwang Eui-don of the Army took over as vice commander of the U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command.
Hwang will be in a role supporting Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of the CFC and the U.S. Forces Korea here.
Han and Hwang were among those who were promoted earlier this month after President Lee Myung-bak nominated outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Tae-young as defense minister.
Gen. Lee Sang-eui was named to succeed Kim.
The comments from the new Army chief come as North Korea is poised to reconcile with the international community -- particularly the United States and South Korea -- possibly to resolve its nuclear standoff.
The military has recently come increasingly in sync with Cheong Wa Dae`s move to define North Korea as a security threat.
The latest developments in the North Korean nuclear standoff were highlighted by reports that Kim Jong-il, the leader of the reclusive country, last week indicated to a Chinese envoy that he is willing to participate in direct talks with Washington and also talks with the rest of the members of the six-party talks for multilateral discussions.
Pyongyang in April had said it quit the six-nation framework "permanently."
But it has lately been gesturing its desire to get back in favor with Seoul and Washington.
There has been no concrete response from the Obama administration, which has only said it was considering the offer for direct talks. It maintains that such dialogue must remain within the six-nation framework.
Seoul also believes sanctions against the North adopted under a U.N. resolution should be sustained as the North has yet to take substantial steps towards denuclearization, officials here said.
The inter-Korean reconciliatory mood has, however, deepened in other areas allowing divided families to reunite between Sept. 26-Oct. 1.
By Kim Ji-hyun