April 05, 2013 12:18
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he "personally agrees" with the idea of withdrawing all South Korean staff from the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea.
Kim was responding to a plea from Saenuri Party lawmaker Han Ki-ho in a meeting of the National Assembly's Defense Committee on Thursday.
Han said, "We should recommend to President Park Geun-hye that South Korean workers in Kaesong should return home. If any North Korean provocation were followed by retaliation, they could be held hostage."
Kim said the Unification Ministry is in charge and has already decided its policy. "As a defense minister, I will focus on military assistance in times of crisis," he added.
The military has apparently devised a plan to rescue South Korean hostages from the industrial park just north of the border with U.S. assistance.
Asked what kind of threat the North poses, Kim said, "Given the nature of the North Korean regime, there is a constant threat of local, limited provocations, and a limited chance that it could escalate into an all-out war. Only military readiness can deter provocations by the enemy."
Some opposition lawmakers argued that the government is overreacting to North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and only inflaming the regime further and increasing threat to national security.
Ahn Gyu-baek of the Democratic United Party said Kim, "who should be working toward alleviating tensions, is doing the exact opposite."
But Kim said the duty of a defense minister "is to prevent war and keep the security situation on the Korean Peninsula stable."
Kim denied there exists a plan to attack statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang if North Korea launches a fresh provocation.
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