South Korea says it will respond 'severely' to Pyongyang's military provocations

The new defense minister South KoreanLee Jong-sup, warned this Wednesday when taking office with which he arrived at the new government in the country, that Seoul will respond “severely” to possible provocations of North Korea.

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Lee, a retired general distinguished with three stars, expressed in his inauguration speech his commitment to guarantee a “robust” defense of the country in the current security context, which he described as “very serious” due to the development of weapons in Pyongyang and the intensification of the rivalry between the United States and China.

“If North Korea carries out a tactical provocation, we will respond severely taking into account our right to self-defense,” Lee said in his speech, picked up by the local Yonhap news agency.

The new South Korean Defense Minister also indicated his intention to strengthen the military alliance between Seoul and Washington, and to expand defense cooperation “with friendly nations.”

Lee also vowed to “drastically” strengthen the country’s three-pronged system to counter security threats from the North, comprised of the so-called Korea Mass Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) program, the Kill Chain operational plan (meant to attack preemptively by detecting preparations for a nuclear attack) and the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD).

He also expressed his desire to further develop the country’s defense industry to transform it “into a cutting-edge strategic sector” that leads national economic growth.

A graduate of the Korea Military Academy, Lee has held several high-profile posts in the past, including vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of the 7th Army Corps.

His arrival at the post of Minister of Defense in the framework of the government change with the investiture in the presidency of the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol occurs at a time of growing forecasts that the North Korean regime could very soon carry out its first nuclear test since 2017 and with a visit by US President Joe Biden to Seoul scheduled for the end of next week.

Yoon has been in favor of adopting a tougher stance with the neighboring country than that put forward by his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, although he has left the door open to dialogue with the regime.

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