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S Korea names Kim Kwan-jin, former JCS chief, as new defense minister

English.news.cn   2010-11-26 18:20:43 FeedbackPrintRSS

File photo of Kim Kwan-jin.  (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

SEOUL, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Friday named Kim Kwan-jin, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), as new defense minister as the former defense chief resigned to shoulder for a series of recent mishaps, Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

The 61-year-old former Army general replaces Kim Tae-young, whose resignation offer was accepted by President Lee Myung-bak a day earlier.

Kim Kwan-jin, served as chairman of the JCS during the period from 2006 to 2008, was chosen as the new defense chief for his "expertise and insight in the policy and strategy fields" based on 40 years of experience in the military, Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.

Earlier local media reported that Lee Hee-won, a former presidential security aide, was named as new defense minister, but Cheong Wa Dae denied it later, saying it was still screening multiple candidates for the position.

President Lee Myung-bak accepted Kim Tae-young's intent to step down on Thursday, months after Kim tendered his resignation to take responsibility for the sinking of the South Korean naval frigate Cheongan off the nation's west coast in March, which left 46 sailors dead.

Lee delayed formerly accepting the resignation offer due to a series of pressing issues at hand, such as follow-up measures to cope with the ship sinking and an annual defense ministerial meeting with Washington, presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee said Thursday.

But recent mishaps in the military, including successive incidents and the DPRK's shelling of a South Korean island, have pushed the president to eventually accept Kim's offer to step down as a means to boost the military morale, Yim has said.

Local experts said the move is aimed to hold Kim Tae-young responsible for mishandling the military's response to the DPRK's fatal artillery shelling on Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday, which killed four South Koreans, including two civilians.

Seoul's Ministry of National Defense has been under fire for its handling of the artillery clash, especially its belated response and "lax defense posture".

South Korea and the DPRK exchanged fire in waters off the west coast of the divided peninsula Tuesday, during which some shells landed on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island near the contentious sea border called Northern Limit Line (NLL). The clash left four South Koreans dead, while damages to the DPRK have yet to be verified.

South Korea and the DPRK have remained at odds on the so-called NLL, which was fixed unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command after the 1950-1953 Korean War. South Korea holds the NLL as the de-facto western inter-Korean border, but the DPRK rejected the NLL and only recognized the demarcation line it drew in 1999, which was further south of the NLL.

The new defense minister designate is to go through parliamentary confirmation hearing whose date has not been set, although parliamentary endorsement is not required in Kim's appointment. The outgoing defense chief Kim Tae-yong will continue to work until his successor is formally takes office.

Related:

South Korean president accepts defense minister's resignation

SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak accepted Defense Minister Kim Tae-young's resignation on Thursday, according to Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"President Lee decided to accept Defense Minister Kim Tae-young's intent to step down," presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee told a press briefing.   Full story

Editor: Deng Shasha
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