President Moon Jae-in said Friday he feels responsible for recent cases of lax military discipline and ordered his defense minister and military chief to take stern countermeasures.
"The people are concerned about the military's discipline and security posture due to several recent incidents. As the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I feel responsible," Moon said in a lunch meeting with retired military leaders at Cheong Wa Dae.
Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (left) and President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
The "several recent incidents" mentioned by Moon appeared to refer to last month's undetected arrival of a North Korean boat into a South Korean port and a false confession case involving a military manhunt.
The military was criticized for failing to detect the entry of a small wooden boat carrying four North Koreans into Samcheok Port on the east coast on June 15. In early July, a sailor was forced to make a false confession after an unidentified person was spotted inside the Navy's Second Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.
Some political watchers say Moon virtually expressed regret for the recent military incidents by mentioning responsibility, amid growing attention on the fate of Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo in an imminent Cabinet reshuffle expected next month. But other watchers speculate Jeong is unlikely to be replaced as the president stressed the minister's role in coping with the incidents. The rival parties have been fiercely at odds over Jeong's fate, with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party calling for his immediate dismissal.
Moon stressed a virtuous cycle of strong defensive power, a solid South Korea-U.S. alliance, peace on the Korean Peninsula and economic growth in the lunch meeting attended by leading members of the Korea Veterans Association, the Korea Retired Generals & Admirals Association and the Korea Military Academy Alumni Association.
"A virtuous cycle of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula will lead to the creation of a new order of cooperation in Northeast Asia, as well as between the two Koreas, and contribute greatly to regional co-prosperity in East Asia," Moon said.
"We can declare the opening of the new Korean Peninsula system only if the dialogue between North Korea and the United States leads to complete denuclearization, the normalization of their relations and the replacement of the armistice agreement with a peace treaty," he said. (Yonhap)