President Park Geun-hye presided over a National Security Council meeting Monday for the first time since taking office as part of joint annual military exercises with the U.S., and urged strict security even in times of tranquility.
“It is utterly important to maintain a firm security posture in all circumstances. As the saying goes, even if the whole country appears to be calm, if one forgets war, crisis is bound to visit,” Park said at the closed-door meeting.
The meeting was held at Cheong Wa Dae’s so-called underground bunker that functions as the crisis room. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and National Intelligence Service chief Nam Jae-joon were among the attendees.
Park’s first NSC meeting was held amid signs of easing tension with North Korea following the two sides’ agreement to normalize the suspended Gaeseong industrial park and to hold talks on resuming reunions of separated families.
|President Park Geun-hye presides over a Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)|
The meeting was part of the 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games, which started on Monday and involves about 50,000 South Korean and 30,000 U.S. soldiers.
Park noted that the Ulchi exercises began in the wake of North Korea’s 1968 attack on Cheong Wa Dae, referring to the North’s failed attempt to assassinate then-President Park Chung-hee, her father.
North Korea has annually lambasted the South’s annual drills with the U.S. as a provocation, but has remained low-profile this year so far.
Adding that preparing for national contingencies was the most important aspect of national security, Park said the relative calm should be a chance to establish and review all plans by each government organization in case of war.
Park specifically ordered checks of resident evacuation facilities and a review of measures against terrorist attacks on the metropolitan regions and attacks with chemical and biological weapons, as well as new types of provocations such as cyber attacks or GPS disruption.
The Ulchi training exercises will include defense drills against provocations and cyber attacks that target the military network as well as contingencies involving weapons of mass destruction.
The exercise is monitored by the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, along with seven United Nations Command states: Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand and Norway.
The South Korean government will hold a separate four-day emergency exercise from Monday to review the government’s readiness.
Tension on the Korean Peninsula was high at the start of Park’s inauguration, following North Korea’s third nuclear test in February, a barrage of verbal threats and a unilateral suspension of communication and the joint industrial complex.
The North has recently been showing signs of reconciliation by activating their diplomatic contacts and responding to or proposing dialogue with the South to thaw relations.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org