President Park Geun-hye’s nominee for defense minister pledged Sunday to establish the country’s indigenous missile defense system at an early date to counter escalating threats from North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles.
South Korea has been speeding up the establishment of the indigenous Korea Air and Missile Defense aimed at low-flying missiles coming from North Korea. A pre-emptive missile destruction system, the so-called Kill Chain, is also under development to detect and strike North Korea’s missile and nuclear facilities.
“The defense ministry will push for an early establishment of the KAMD and the Kill Chain amid growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats,” Han Min-koo said at a parliamentary confirmation hearing.
Han said he will try to make North Korea realize that Pyongyang will never get any concessions through military provocations and threats.
“I will do my best to ensure watertight military preparedness against a full-scale provocation from North Korea as well as any localized conflicts,” he said.
The defense minister nominee also raised a possibility that the military has a small number of officers whose ideology is deemed pro-North Korean.
“A very few number of pro-Pyongyang officers may exist in the military, though there is no exact data available,” he told the hearing.
On June 1, Park tapped Han, a career soldier and former chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to succeed Kim Kwan-jin, who was picked to be her national security adviser.
Kim was named to replace Kim Jang-soo, who resigned from his post last month in the wake of his controversial remarks on April’s deadly ferry sinking. Kim is currently serving both posts until Han’s nomination is approved by parliament.
Han is the first among eight nominees for Cabinet posts to undergo a parliamentary confirmation hearing.
On June 13, Park replaced seven ministers, including the deputy prime minister for economic affairs, in an effort to regain public confidence in her government rocked by April’s ferry disaster that claimed nearly 300 lives. It was her first major Cabinet shake-up since taking office in February last year.
Three days earlier, Park named South Korea’s top envoy to Japan, Lee Byung-kee, as the new director of the National Intelligence Service. The 67-year-old career diplomat also needs to go through a parliamentary confirmation hearing.
The National Assembly plans to hold a series of confirmation hearings for the seven others and the spy chief nominee in the coming days.
In South Korea, minister nominees are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings, but the National Assembly cannot block their appointment. The prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary confirmation. (Yonhap)