Defense chief calls for firm readiness against possible N.K. provocations during allied drills
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup called on top military commanders Wednesday to ensure strong readiness against possibilities of North Korea launching provocations around the time of the upcoming combined exercise with the United States.
Lee made the call during the top brass' meeting, where participants discussed antivirus measures and other preparations for the allies' Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise slated for Aug. 22-Sept. 1, according to his ministry.
"Noting that on the occasion of the UFS, there are possibilities of North Korea undertaking provocations, the minister instructed commanders to make substantive preparations and establish strict discipline to reinforce a military readiness posture and ensure the UFS can proceed successfully," the ministry said in a press release.
Preparations for the UFS come as Seoul and Washington are stepping up security coordination amid concerns that Pyongyang could dial up tensions by conducting what would be its seventh nuclear test or other provocative acts.
Participants at the meeting shared the view that possibilities remain of the North carrying out "strategic or tactical" provocations, as the reclusive regime has lashed out at the South's military buildup programs and the UFS.
"They concurred on the view that the military should maintain a firm readiness posture, put its core assets on standby and establish operational discipline," the ministry said.
At the meeting, participants also discussed plans to introduce stronger antivirus measures, including requiring all Korean participants in the UFS and new recruits to present negative tests.
The "high-intensity" measures to stop infections during the UFS include requiring service members to take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests before joining the UFS, and to take rapid tests two or three times a week during the duration of the exercise.
Other steps include resuming a scheme to require all draftees to show PCR negative tests before joining the military, and strengthening monitoring programs for troops who have returned from off-base trips.
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