South Korean president appoints army chief as defense minister

Seoul, Aug 8 (efe-epa).- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday appointed the Army Chief of Staff Suh Wook as the new defense minister of the country, the presidential office said.

Presidential spokesperson Kang Min-seok said that Suh had “adequate experience in both field maneuvers and military operation,” emphasizing his expertise in combined operations with the United States.

“On the basis of more than 30 years of experience in the military, Suh is expected to contribute to maintaining a firm defense posture,” said the spokesperson, according to local news agency Yonhap.

Born in Gwangju – around 270 kilometers south of Seoul – Suh has had a distinguished military career spanning more than three decades, including important postings such as the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command and the chief of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Once the National Assembly (parliament) – where Moon’s Democratic Party enjoys a majority – approves his appointment, Suh will also be tasked with heading the difficult negotiations with Washington over sharing the expenditure on the US troops deployed on South Korean soil.

The talks have dragged on and been stuck for months after US President Donald Tromp demanded that Seoul increase its share of the costs five times, taking the figure to around $5 billion.

The US has 28,500 troops deployed in South Korea to defend its ally from North Korean aggression. The two Koreas have remained enemies since the Korean War (1950-53), which ended with an armistice and no definitive peace treaty.

The appointment also comes in the backdrop of the growing tensions in the region after earlier this week the US sent a spy plane flying over a Chinese no-fly zone during a live-fire drill by the People’s Liberation Army in the disputed South China Sea.

On Friday, Beijing said that it had forced a US warship to leave its “territorial waters” in the mineral-rich and strategically important maritime area, which is also claimed in parts by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. News reports had claimed that on Wednesday China fired two “anti-aircraft” missiles in the South China Sea as a warning to Washington. EFE-EPA


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