Marine Corps vows to build new command for ‘strategic islands’

2017-10-19 16:21

South Korea’s Marine Corps on Thursday announced a plan to establish a new command dedicated to protecting border islands, pledging to defend the sea border against North Korea’s potential attacks and infiltration attempts.

In its report to a parliamentary audit Thursday, the Marine Corps said the new command will be built around 2020 and based on the current Northwestern Island Defense Command. It was formed in 2011 following North Korea’s artillery attack on Yeongpyeong Island, one of the farmost islands in the west sea.

“Not only do we focus on the northwestern island, the Marine Corps will seek to expand the command into a new defense command for strategic islands,” said Marine Corps’ commander Gen. Jun Jin-goo. “We will seek to establish a unified command structure for strategic islands in the west, east and south sea.”

Marine Corps’ commander Gen. Jun Jin-goo (Yonhap)

The announcement came amid North Korea’s increasing threat against South Korea’s border areas. In August, Pyongyang revealed its military training designed to seize Yeongpyeong Island and its nearby Baengnyeong Island.

Some lawmakers voiced concerns that if North Korea feels confident about its nuclear and missile advantage against South Korea, it might try to forcefully occupy those near-border islands. Last week, South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo acknowledged that it is a plausible scenario.

Asked about those eventualities, South Koreas’ Navy chief Admr. Um Hyung-sung on Thursday pledged a strong response, saying the military would treat the North’s occupation attempt as an “all-out war situation.”

“In the event of the enemy’s provocations, front-line units can’t afford to judge whether this is a localized skirmish or an all-out war. We will retaliate as if it is an all-out war,” Um told lawmakers. “We have maintained a robust readiness posture.”

The Marines Corps said it would establish a unit to defend Dokdo, a set of islets in the east that have been the subject of a territorial dispute with Japan. Dubbed the “Ulleung unit” -- named after the island near Dokdo -- the unit will interdict infiltration attempts near the water. The Marine Corps seeks to build the unit by 2020.

In a bid to build an “aggressive operation” against North Korea’s provocations, the Navy also announced a plan to create a new maneuver fleet and an aviation command by 2023.

If formed, the new fleet will include several 6,000-ton KDDX Aegis destroyers and three additional 7,600-ton KDX-III Aegis destroyers. The KDDX ships, which will be built in the mid-2020s, are to be equipped with an advanced ballistic missile defense system and ship-to-surface missiles.

“We will focus on improving our capability to strike the North Korean leadership and core targets inside (the North’s) ballistic missile operation area,” the Navy said in its report for the parliamentary audit. “We will focus on improving sea-based anti-missile operations.”

By Yeo Jun-suk (