South Korea Is Speeding Up Arms Buildup to Counter North, Its Leader Says

“The top priority is to secure abilities to counter the North Korean nuclear and missile threats,” Mr. Moon said.


Mr. Moon, a liberal, has been more aggressive than his conservative predecessors about building up the South Korean military.

Jeon Heon-Kyun/European Pressphoto Agency

Since Mr. Moon assumed office in May, North Korea has conducted at least nine missile tests, two of which involved intercontinental ballistic missiles. On Sept. 3, the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. And the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has been exchanging increasingly bellicose threats with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Moon has been more aggressive than his conservative predecessors about building up the South Korean military. After he met with Mr. Trump in New York last week, Washington agreed to sell more sophisticated weapons to South Korea.

During that meeting, the United States and South Korea also agreed to expand the deployment of American strategic military assets to South Korea on a rotating basis, possibly by the end of the year, Mr. Moon’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told South Korean political leaders on Wednesday.

Mr. Chung did not say what those assets would be, but in recent years, the United States has often sent long-range strategic bombers and nuclear-powered submarines to South Korea for military drills.

In his speech Thursday, Mr. Moon said his government was accelerating work on three military programs: a pre-emptive strike system known as “Kill Chain” that would target North Korean missile sites; an air and missile defense system; and a program designed to launch devastating strikes against North Korea’s military and political leadership should it start a war.


South Korean fighter jets during the ceremony on Thursday. Mr. Moon called for the military to become more independent of America’s.

Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He said the South Korean military should become strong enough to retake its wartime control from the Americans, and to “play a leading role in establishing a stronger and more stable combined defense system” together with the United States.

South Korea handed over operational control of its military to an American…

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