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‘Weapons needed to neutralize N.K. WMDs’

The chief of a presidential committee on defense advancement said Wednesday that South Korea should secure weapons capable of incapacitating the North’s weapons of mass destruction to deal with its growing military threats.

Lee Sang-woo of the 15-member committee made the remarks amid escalating public calls for military reform aimed at enhancing the country’s defense capabilities against North Korean provocations.

“Unless North Korea abandons its WMDs, South Korea, which has decided not to possess WMDs, has no way to be militarily superior to its communist neighbor,” Lee said during his keynote speech at a security seminar hosted by three local security research institutes.

“The South, which maintains a denuclearization policy, can prevent the North’s military superiority only when it has the non-nuclear precision strike capabilities that could incapacitate its WMDs before they are put to use.”

Lee, former head of Hallym University and professor of political science, also voiced caution against the planned troop drawdown. Under the Military Reform Plan 2020, which was crafted by the former Roh Moo-hyun government in 2005, the military plans to reduce the number of troops to 517,000 by 2020 from the current 650,000.

“Considering that the North has deployed ground troops two times more than ours in the frontline areas, the early reduction of our troops is not desirable,” Lee said.

“We should maintain our troops at a certain level until the North significantly reduces its ground troop numbers. We also need to maintain the term of mandatory military service at a certain level given our limited size of the military workforce.”

Lee also pointed out that the commanding structure in the military is too complicated for the troops to effectively and efficiently operate.

“The military has too many stages and its structure is complicated. Each unit with such a structure is controlled in a pyramid shape, which is inappropriate for the military to nimbly respond to any battle situation,” Lee said.

Touching on North Korean provocations, he stressed the need for the military to change its policy stance from a “passive defense strategy” to an “active deterrence strategy.”

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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