President Moon Jae-in on Thursday called for stronger military capabilities to deter North Korean provocations, saying Seoul regaining wartime operational control from the US is essential for the goal.
“My administration is pursuing the early takeover of wartime operational control. The handover on the basis of our independent defense capabilities will ultimately lead to a remarkable advancement in the fundamentals and abilities of our military,” Moon said at an Armed Forces Day event held at a Navy base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.
|President Moon Jae-in makes a speech at a Navy base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on Thursday. Yonhap|
“When the South has wartime operation control, the North will fear us more, and our armed forces will be trusted more.”
Moon went on to say that once peace is established on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea will serve as “a security hub” in the region.
Saying the country’s military must become “ready to win,” Moon also repeated his administration’s plans for boosting the country’s ability to defend against missiles and retaliate against North Korea.
The government’s plans include strengthening the Kill Chain and Korea Air and Missile Defense and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation systems.
As part of the plans, the Moon administration has allocated more than 43 trillion won ($37.5 billion) of the 2018 budget to defense. The figure is an on-year rise of 6.9 percent, the largest increase since 2009.
The Armed Forces Day event also saw a massive array of military hardware being displayed, including the Hyunmoo-2C missiles. The missile, a key part of the Kill Chain system, was revealed to the public for the first time.
In emphasizing the need for stronger military capabilities, Moon said such efforts are to ensure peace, adding that armed conflict must be avoided.
“Peace and prosperity on the peninsula is an absolute responsibility, vested to the president by the Constitution, which does not allow for any exception,” Moon said, adding that the current situation must be handled carefully.
Moon also took the opportunity to highlight military reforms pushed by his administration. Moon has emphasized the need for reforms across Korean society, and the military and defense industries have not escaped scrutiny.
A number of irregularities in major defense acquisition projects have been revealed, while high-profile cases of corruption and mistreatment of soldiers in the armed forces have come to light.
Saying corruption in the defense industry is “an enemy of national security,” Moon emphasized that corruption must be rooted out, and called on military commanders to protect human rights in the ranks.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)