Seoul, May 11 (EFE).- The new South Korean defense minister said Wednesday that his country would respond “sternly” to possible provocations from North Korea.
In his inauguration speech, Lee Jong-sup, a retired three-star general, expressed his commitment to ensure a “robust” defense of the country in the current security context, which he described as “very grave” due to North Korea’s weapons development program and the intensification of the rivalry between the United States and China.
“If North Korea conducts a tactical provocation, we will sternly respond in light of our right to self-defense,” Lee said, local news agency Yonhap reported.
The new South Korean defense minister also indicated his intention to strengthen the military alliance between Seoul and Washington, and to expand “mutually beneficial defense cooperation with friendly nations.”
Lee vowed to “drastically” strengthen the country’s three-axis system to counter security threats from the North.
This comprises the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation program to incapacitate the North’s leadership in the event of a major conflict, the Kill Chain operational plan to attack preemptively upon detecting preparations for a nuclear attack, and the Korean Air and Missile Defense.
He also expressed his desire to further develop the country’s defense industry and transform it into a “strategic cutting-edge industrial sector that leads our economic growth.”
A graduate of the Korea Military Academy, Lee has held several high-profile posts in the past, including vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of the army’s 7th Corps.
He takes charge of the defense ministry under the government of the newly elected conservative president, Yoon Suk-yeol, amid signs that the North Korean regime could shortly carry out its first nuclear test since 2017 and with a visit by US President Joe Biden to Seoul scheduled for the end of next week.
Yoon has been in favor of adopting a tougher stance towards the neighboring country than his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, although he has left the door open to talks with the regime. EFE