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South Korea To Become Capable Of Deterring War On Peninsula

South Korean honor guards march in a parade marking the 58th anniversary of the Armed Forces Day in downtown Daejeon, 140 km (87 miles) south of Seoul, 01 October 2006. Photo courtesy of Jung Yeon-Je and AFP.
by Staff Writers
Gyeryongdae, South Korea (AFP) Oct 01, 2006
South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun said Sunday his military would be capable of playing a leading role in deterring war on the Korean peninsula in the early part of the next decade. Roh's remarks came as Seoul tries to reshape its military alliance with Washington to regain wartime control over its armed forces and play a bigger role in countering North Korea, a self-declared nuclear power.

"We should build our self-defense capability to guarantee security for ourselves under any circumstances," Roh said, marking the 58th anniversary of the army's creation at military headquarters south of the capital Seoul.

"By the early 2010s, our military will have the capability to lead deterrence to war on the Korean peninsula."

Roh said the country would develop a "more efficient, strong and advanced elite" military, which could then play a "pivotal role in establishing peace in Northeast Asia" by 2020.

South Korea and the United States have finalized a plan to drastically revamp their alliance, which dates back to the 1950-1953 Korean War, to allow Seoul wartime operational control over its troops.

The "joint study" will be presented to this month's annual meeting of defence chiefs for approval, the defense ministry said last week.

Despite the change, both sides have said their mutual defense commitments would remain unaffected.

Some 29,500 US troops are stationed here to help 650,000 South Korean forces face up to North Korea's 1.2 million-strong army.

South Korea handed operational control over its own military to the US-led United Nations Command soon after the Korean War, sparked by an invasion from the communist North.

It regained peacetime control in 1994 but wartime control over Seoul's military remains in the hands of the top US commander here.

On Sunday, Roh said South Korea's alliance with the United States had been a "big help" in terms of developing the country's military.

"In the future, the South Korean-US alliance will continue to be a strong buttress of deterrence to war on the Korean peninsula and peace and stability in Northeast Asia," he said.

The South Korean defense ministry on Sunday announced a new arms buildup plan to supply another 100 ship-to-ship cruise missiles by 2010 and six more submarines by 2017 to the military.

The Seoul government wants to regain wartime control by 2012, citing national pride. The United States has proposed an earlier date of 2009.

The issue has split society, with conservative groups, veterans, intellectuals and others saying it will weaken defences against the North's nuclear and missile threat.

North Korea declared in February 2005 that it had built nuclear bombs. Six-nation talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons have been stalled since the latest round in November.

The two Koreas are still technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The United States wants to cut down on the current military presence in South Korea from 29,500 to 25,000 troops by 2008. It also wants flexibility to deploy them elsewhere in the region if necessary.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Inter-Korean Military Talks End Without Agreement
Seoul (AFP) Oct 02, 2006
Military officers from North and South Korea held talks Monday for the first time in almost five months but failed to agree on ways to ease tensions on the divided peninsula. The South's team said the communist state's July missile tests were not directly discussed but that it had raised the issue of heightened tensions in general.

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