South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn Hee-jung, said Wednesday if elected president, he will reduce Seoul's reliance on the United States for its defense while maintaining a strong bilateral alliance.
In a meeting with foreign correspondents in Seoul, the potential presidential contender of the main opposition Democratic Party also pledged to try and resume talks with North Korea for its nuclear disarmament and the revival of inter-Korean projects.
"The traditional alliance with the US must remain strong. We will develop the alliance to a global-level partnership to jointly tackle international issues," Ahn said. "But we will also reduce our dependence on the US in terms of national defense, and improve our self-defense capabilities."
The governor said South Korea should retrieve the wartime operational control of its troops from the US The transfer had been scheduled for 2015 but was postponed during their military talks in 2014.
South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn Hee-jung speaks at a meeting with foreign correspondents in Seoul (Yonhap)
Washington began to hold control of Korean troops in 1950 when the Korean War started. Korea regained peacetime operational control in 1994.
"The US could change its policy on the Korean Peninsula under the new administration. We cannot depend on the US all the time," Ahn said. "(South Korea) should grow its power to defend itself even in the worst security situations.
The governor also said he will push to resume dialogue with North Korea. If the North shows signs of trustable changes regarding its nuclear programs and the international community eases current sanctions, Ahn said he will try to reopen an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong and restart a joint tour program to Mount Kumgang in the North.
Ahn also emphasized the importance of ties with China and Japan. He said he hopes South Korea, China and Japan will join forces to build an Asian community and forge a lasting peace based on close economic, diplomatic and military cooperation. (Yonhap)