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(LEAD) Moon urges immediate offensive in case N. Korea crosses the 'line'

2017/08/28 15:55

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(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks, more details from 4th para)

SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in ordered the country's military to further enhance its defense readiness Monday, calling for an immediate offensive in case North Korea crosses what he called the "line" or launches a direct attack against the South Korean capital.

"I want you to strongly push for a reform of the military structure to meet the requirements of modern warfare so that it can quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation that crosses the line or attacks the capital region," the president said while meeting with the country's top military officials, including Defense Minister Song Young-moo, for policy discussions.

"Also, I want you to further enhance our military's mobility and air defense capabilities," Moon added, according to pool reports.

Monday's meeting marked the fourth of its kind where the president was briefed on the key policy objectives of government offices before lengthy discussions on how to best implement such goals. The discussion sessions are set to last until Thursday, involving a different group of government ministries and agencies each day. The latest meeting also involved officials from the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

The president noted the importance of defense reform, saying only a strong military can ensure peace.

He, however, also stressed the importance of such reform moving in the right direction.

"Unless the defense reform is preceded by serious discussions on why it has never been properly carried out despite each and every former government crying out for defense reform, why our military still cannot exercise its wartime operational control and why the establishment of the three key defense systems has been delayed despite North Korea's continued nuclear and missile provocations and advancements, defense reform will again become nothing but a hollow slogan," Moon said.

The three key defense systems, or pillars, refer to South Korea's own killchain, missile defense system and massive punishment and retaliation capabilities, which in turn are a prerequisite to the proposed transfer of the wartime operational control of South Korean armed forces that is currently held by the United States.

"I want you to set up a detailed plan on how and by when you will set up the three pillars of defense," Moon said.

The president also urged efforts to improve human rights and living conditions of military conscripts, noting the government and the military were responsible to their parents for their safety.

All South Korean males are required to serve 21 months in the military. The Moon Jae-in administration has pledged to cut the time of service to 18 months.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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