New defense chief vows to buttress Korea peace efforts

SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo took office Friday, vowing to buttress Seoul's ongoing efforts to foster a lasting peace on the divided peninsula.

In his inauguration speech, he also reiterated his resolve to build a robust defense posture to counter a "full range of security threats," develop a mutually complementary alliance with the United States and complete the defense reform aimed at creating a smaller yet smarter military.

"Now, we have removed the curtain of deep conflict that had hung over the peninsula for a long period, and taken a bold step toward a new era of peace and prosperity free from war," the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

"At such a juncture, our military must prop up the government's efforts to solidify (the groundwork) for a lasting peace on the peninsula and actively push for follow-up measures to the military agreement aimed at enforcing the historic Panmunjom Declaration," he added.

Jeong was referring to the agreement designed to flesh out the military part of the April inter-Korean summit declaration designed to reduce military tensions, prevent accidental clashes and build confidence.

The agreement was adopted after this week's summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. It includes setting up air, ground and maritime buffer zones in which military drills will be suspended.

Moon told Jeong to make sure that the military agreement is faithfully implemented as he officially appointed Jeong as the new defense chief in a ceremony at the presidential office earlier in the day, according to presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.

During the speech, Jeong also said that based on the "mutually beneficial" alliance, he will seek to foster conditions for the "stable" transfer of wartime operational control from Washington at an early date.

"I will develop the mutually complementary, firm South Korea-U.S. alliance and enhance defense cooperation," he said.

Touching on the defense reform, the new minister pledged to develop defense policy and strategies that will enable the military to "flexibly" respond to security challenges and maximize inter-service cooperation in defense operations.

Jeong replaced Song Young-moo, the retired admiral who had led the ministry since July last year.

Since being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1982, Jeong has served in various prominent posts, such as the Air Force chief of staff, JCS strategic planning chief, Air Force strategic planning chief and southern air combat commander.

He is a veteran fighter pilot with flight experience of 2,800 hours.

He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982. In 2002, he finished a master's degree course in business administration at Hannam University.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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