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Defense chief calls for firm readiness posture against N. Korea

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo called Wednesday for maintaining a staunch defense posture, his office said, as North Korea and the United States traded thinly veiled threats against each other amid stalled nuclear negotiations.

Jeong made the call during a biannual meeting of top commanders held at the ministry compound in Seoul. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki and around 150 high-level military officers and government officials from related agencies attended the meeting.

The meeting came a day after the North warned the US to heed a year-end deadline for coming up with a new negotiating proposal acceptable to Pyongyang, saying it's up to Washington what Christmas gift it will get, an apparent threat of provocations.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (Yonhap)
South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (Yonhap)

Hours later, US President Donald Trump hinted at the possibility of the use of force against North Korea if necessary, calling Kim "Rocket Man," a nickname that he coined for Kim in 2017.

"North Korea has stepped up its military moves, and our military has been closely monitoring the situation," Jeong said in his opening remarks, adding that security circumstances on the Korean Peninsula this year have changed dramatically so that it is hard to predict what is to come.

He cited the communist country's test-firing of rockets and missiles 13 times so far this year, such as short-range ballistic missiles, with the latest test of super-large multiple rocket launcher having taken place on Thursday.

In violation of the inter-Korean military agreement signed in September 2018, the North also conducted artillery firing drills on the border island of Changrin in the Yellow Sea last month, according to the minister.

"In consideration North Korea's recent military moves, it is necessary to maintain a staunch defense readiness posture based on stern discipline," Jeong said.

Calling military exercises "a core value of the military," he stressed the need to carry out drills "just like actual fighting so as to maintain superb combat capabilities," which would ensure the continued push for the government's peace process on the peninsula.

Jeong also voiced concern over "heightened possibilities of accidental mid-air clashes," citing combined exercises by China and Russia and their warplanes' repeated entry into South Korea's air defense identification zone.

He then presented key policy goals for next year: the establishment of strong defense posture against security threats from all directions; the development of complementary Korea-US alliance and the promotion of defense exchanges and cooperation; the strong push for military reform; the establishment of transparent and efficient administrative system and the cultivation of trustworthy, inclusive barracks culture.

"This year, we took a first step towards building the digital-based strong military by maximizing advanced technologies. We should proactively push related measures next year to produce plausible results," Jeong added. (Yonhap)