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Moon reaffirms early OPCON transfer

By Kim Ji-Hyun

President Moon Jae-in has reaffirmed his pledge to take back wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean forces from the United States Forces Korea (USFK) as soon as possible, saying it will improve the military’s deterrence capability against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

He also encouraged the early establishment of a domestic defense system and vowed to reform the defense industry.

Moon reiterated the need for strong defense during an Armed Forces Day celebration at the headquarters of the Navy’s 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday.

Armed Forces Day falls Oct. 1, but the government advanced the date of the event ahead of the 10-day Chuseok holiday break beginning Sept. 30.

“We are pursuing the early takeover of OPCON,” Moon said in a speech. “The handover on the basis of our independent defense capabilities will ultimately lead to a remarkable advancement in the fundamental capabilities of our military.”

Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye delayed the OPCON transfer, which was initially scheduled for December 2015, until late 2020. Moon has pledged to move up the date to during his five-year term if possible.

“When the South has OPCON, the North will fear us more, and our armed forces will be trusted more. With elevated self-esteem, our military will become stronger, and the Republic of Korea will emerge as a security hub in Northeast Asia,” the President said.

For that goal, Moon said the nation needs to secure stronger deterrence capabilities against the North’s provocations, including setting up a three-pronged defense system — a Kill Chain preemptive defense system, Korea Air and Missile Defense and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation.

“As these three powerful Korean systems are the core of our military’s independent capabilities, I hope every effort will be made for their early completion.”

A Taurus long-range air-to-surface missile is on display during a media day presentation of a commemoration event marking Armed Forces Day at the Navy 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. / AFP-Yonhap

Stressing strong security as the key to making and maintaining peace, Moon said the government is making efforts to enhance the country’s military readiness and stabilize the current situation so escalating tension will not lead to a military clash.

“Our government’s determination to protect peace requires strong defense capabilities. And we will stand up against reckless provocations with strong punishment,” he said.

He called for strengthened South Korea-U.S. combined defense capabilities.

“It will be possible to fundamentally curb the North’s nuclear provocations when the alliance’s extended deterrence is actually exercised.”

The President also called for the eradication of any problems in the military that could harm soldiers’ morale and eventually damage national defense.