President Moon Jae-in on Thursday called for continued efforts to increase the country's defense capabilities despite recent rapprochement with North Korea, insisting that lasting peace can only come from strong defense to ensure it.
"This year, there have been many developments and changes. Until last year, the Korean Peninsula was on the brink of war amid tension and confrontation. In just one year, the South and the North declared the end of confrontation on the Korean Peninsula and opened an era of peace through dialogue," the president said in a meeting with top defense ministry officials and military commanders to receive a report on the ministry's policy objectives for next year.
The recent rapprochement between the two Koreas followed Moon's three historic meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in which the two leaders agreed the countries will never again use military force against each other.
A non-aggression pact was signed by the countries' respective militaries shortly after the first Moon-Kim summit held in April.
Moon gave the military the credit for reduced tension.
"I believe the people too may have sensed the change and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our military accomplished a truly great deed," he told the meeting, according to pool reports.
Still, the president stressed the need for enhanced capabilities.
"The peace is still temporary. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the peace process are still well under way, but we must not let our guards down until (the processes) are completely finished. Next year, we must establish lasting peace that will not waver. Peace lasts when our military is strong," he said.
Moon also highlighted the need to prepare for other threats.
"Right now, security conditions surrounding the Korean Peninsula are changing rapidly. In times like these, the military must work to become a stronger force through swift reform," the president said.
He urged efforts to build a more advanced, high-tech military.
"Under the ever-changing security conditions, an advanced, high-tech military is a must to build a strong military," said Moon.
During the policy briefing, Moon also underscored the need to develop a "complementary" plan to flexibly respond to the changing security situation on the peninsula, according to Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
"It is not like devising such a plan right away, but it is about making preparations vis-a-vis a possible scenario of change in the security environment … We have been studying it," Jeong told reporters.
The state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses has been conducting research on a defense reform plan in preparation for a peaceful, denuclearized peninsula. (yonhap)