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Vets Urge Review of Wartime Command Transfer

Posted April. 23, 2010 02:24,   


President Lee Myung-bak yesterday pledged stern action after the whole story behind the Cheonan sinking is uncovered.

The president spoke at a luncheon meeting he hosted with 22 military veterans including Korea Veterans Association Chairman Park Se-hwan, Korea Retired Generals & Admirals Association Chairman Kim Jong-ho, and Association Republic of Korea Army Chairman Baek Seon-yeop. Eighty-three retired and active generals, including eighteen generals, three lieutenant generals and one major general in the reserves, attended at the luncheon meeting.

Presidential spokesman Park Sun-gyu quoted the veterans as saying they agree with President Lee that the cause of the Cheonan sinking should be investigated with international experts in a scientific and objective manner. They urged stern action, however, if North Korea is confirmed to have caused the incident. “This incident should be considered a chance to strengthen the sense of national security of the Republic of Korea. We hope President Lee will make efforts to turn this misfortune to our advantage,” one veteran said.

Many veterans said the incident is an opportunity to deeply consider issues surrounding the transfer of wartime operational command, urging Seoul to reconsider the timing of the transfer. One veteran said, “Certainly, the government has shown a similar response whenever it faces a North Korean provocations, such as the 1987 Korean Air bombing and the second naval clash near Yeonpyeong Island in 2002. We need an effective system via thorough inspection. Efforts to reexamine the relevant system should not be just blown up due to political issues.”

In response, President Lee said, “It’s meaningful to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. But it’s more important to check the overall condition of the Army. Fundamentally, I have strong trust in the Army but it’s high time to look back on military practices and decisively adjust problems. The military should make itself stronger. I will also make a reasonable effort to make the Army far stronger.” He mentioned nothing, however, about the transfer of wartime operational command.

The luncheon was also attended by Reserve Maj. Gen. Han Cheol-yong, who was the commanding officer of the 5679th unit in charge of interception of North Korean radio messages in 2002 when the second battle of Yeonpyeong erupted. At the parliamentary inspection of the administration in October 2002, Han made a surprising statement in saying, “Military leaders ignored signs of North Korea’s provocation and ordered me to report the provocation as a ‘simple incursion.`" He was punished for a month and discharged from military service. At the luncheon, Han made no surprising statements but whispered in the president’s ear afterwards.