This image, provided by the Navy, shows an artist's rendition of a light aircraft carrier when put into operation. (Republic of Korea Navy)
The chief of South Korea's Navy on Thursday called for securing a light aircraft carrier to boost the country's defense capabilities, saying it will be a key strategic asset to protect maritime sovereignty and national interest.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Boo Suk-jong made the remark at a webinar as the Navy seeks to build a 30,000-ton-class light aircraft carrier under a 3 trillion-won ($1.8 billion) project with a plan to put the ship into operation by 2033.
"The light aircraft carrier will be the epitome of joint operations involving naval, aerial and ground forces, and will be a national strategic asset that elevates the country's stature and protects its maritime sovereignty and national interest," Boo said in an opening speech for the event co-hosted by the Navy and the Chungnam National University.
Critics and some lawmakers have raised questions about the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of the project, but the military gave a green light to push for the plan in December.
During the seminar, R. Adm. Jeong Seung-kyun, a two-star Navy officer, said neighboring countries have been expanding their maritime forces amid rising security uncertainties, calling it an "urgent matter" to come up with measures to protect national interest in the ocean.
"We will take into account both opinions for and against adopting the light aircraft carrier and push for the project in a constructive direction," Jeong said.
Defense Minister Suh Wook also said last week they are in a process to push for its procurement as the ship appears to meet the military's required operational capability. (Yonhap)