Seoul to create special team on North Korea

South Korea predicted on Tuesday that North Korea would look to open negotiations with the United States next year in an optimistic outlook for 2018, even as Seoul set up a specialised military team to confront nuclear threats from the North.

SEOUL • South Korea's Defence Ministry has announced that it will launch a special team on North Korea in an organisational shift aimed at responding more effectively to increased nuclear and missile threats from the communist neighbour, Yonhap news agency reported.

Under the plan approved at a Cabinet meeting, the Ministry of National Defence will create a post to oversee its North Korea policy under the Office of National Defence Policy led by a deputy minister. It is to serve as the ministry's "control tower" on handling North Korea affairs, the ministry said yesterday.

The ministry will also establish a division specialising in coping with the North's nuclear programme in close coordination with the Nuclear and WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Response Centre of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is in charge of military operations.

The Counter WMD Division will be reorganised into the Missile and Space Policy Division, while the North Korea Policy Division and the Arms Control Division will be maintained, according to the ministry.

"The (new) director-general of North Korea policy will be in charge of the four divisions," it said. "The reorganisation this time is meaningful in that the Ministry of National Defence has set up a system necessary to effectively deter and respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats."

The defence authorities also decided yesterday to ditch a programme to develop a fixed long-range radar system against North Korea's aircraft, Yonhap said. "Multiple defects were found in the test and a violation of contract terms was also detected," the Defence Acquisition Programme Administration said, referring to a contract with LIG Nex1, a South Korean defence firm.



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'Seoul to create special team on North Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe