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JCS chief nominee vows to build military ‘feared by enemies, trusted by citizens’

Jeong Kyeong-doo, the nominee for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said Friday that if appointed, he would strive to build a strong military "feared by enemies and trusted by citizens."

During his parliamentary confirmation hearing, the Air Force general stressed the need to establish a robust readiness posture, pointing to the "graver-than-ever" security landscape marked by North Korea's continued provocations.

"(If appointed), I will fulfill my given tasks of building a military that is feared by enemies and gives infinite trust to citizens, and of strengthening internal cohesion," Jeong said during his opening remarks.

"If I am given the mantle of the JCS chairman, I will try my utmost to achieve strong security and responsible defense, which are the guidelines by the commander-in-chief," he added.

Jeong Kyeong-doo, the nominee for South Korea`s Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, speaks during a parliamentary confirmation hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul on Aug. 18, 2017. (Yonhap)
Jeong Kyeong-doo, the nominee for South Korea`s Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, speaks during a parliamentary confirmation hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul on Aug. 18, 2017. (Yonhap)

Last Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in named Jeong to lead the JCS as part of a major reshuffle of the top military brass. If appointed, Jeong will become the first Air Force figure in 23 years to lead the military establishment long dominated by the Army.

Jeong's appointment does not require approval from the National Assembly, but he has to go through the hearing process, which is seen as a formality. Barring any unforeseen mishap, Jeong is expected to be inaugurated Sunday.

In his opening statement, Jeong also pointed out that the North's relentless "strategic and tactical provocations, coupled with neighboring countries putting their security interests first," have continued to threaten the security of South Korea.

"Thus, our military has to maintain military readiness firm enough to overcome this grave crisis, and must be reborn as a strong, robust institution that can live up to citizens' expectations," he said.

Responding to a question over whether he would consider the possibility of scaling back South Korea-US military drills as part of a bargaining tactic with the North over its nuclear program, Jeong ruled it out.

"At this point in time, (I) do not consider such a possibility at all," he said.

Amid an escalating nuclear standoff with the reclusive regime, talk has surged of a possible deal under which Seoul scales back its military exercises with Washington, while Pyongyang suspends its nuclear and missile tests. Both Seoul and Washington have dismissed it.

Commenting on conservatives' calls for the redeployment of US tactical nuclear arms, Jeong stressed his adherence to Seoul's long-held denuclearization principle.

"We have to abide by our denuclearization policy principle," he said.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party has ratcheted up pressure on the liberal government to start discussions with Washington over the redeployment of the US nuclear arsenal that was withdrawn as the two Koreas signed a joint declaration for a nuclear-free peninsula in 1991. It underscored the need to create a "nuclear balance of power" with the belligerent regime.

Asked about his view on Moon's definition of the "red line" as the North's weaponization of a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, Jeong called it part of the president's efforts to de-escalate tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. (Yonhap)
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