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(3rd LD) Yoon vows to strengthen capabilities against N.K. drones

All News 23:42 December 27, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS senior official's comments on Yoon's instruction to send drones to N.K. in paras 8-9)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed Tuesday to strengthen the military's surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, saying this week's drone infiltration by North Korea revealed how South Korea's military readiness and exercises have been "greatly lacking" over the years.

He was apparently criticizing the previous Moon Jae-in administration, as he claimed there had been no exercises against such drones since 2017, the year Moon took office and the last time a North Korean drone entered the South.

"I believe the people clearly saw the danger of a North Korea policy that relied on North Korea's good intentions and military agreements," Yoon said during a Cabinet meeting, taking a swipe at the Moon administration's policy of rapprochement with Pyongyang.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (far R) speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on Dec. 27, 2022. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol (far R) speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on Dec. 27, 2022. (Yonhap)

"We had been planning to establish a drone unit to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance operations on North Korea's key military facilities, but in the wake of yesterday's incident, we will move up the drone unit's establishment as much as possible," he added.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) criticized Yoon for shifting the blame.

"President Yoon cited the previous government even for a security failure, making us question his qualification as commander in chief," said Rep. Lee Soo-jin, floor spokesperson of the DP. "There should be a limit in evading responsibility."

Rep. Youn Kun-young, who served as Moon's senior presidential secretary, said the Army established a drone attack unit in 2018.

Some lawmakers have blamed the government for not convening a National Security Council meeting following the incident, but a senior official of the presidential office said that Yoon was briefed on the developments on a real-time basis and he ordered the military to "send drones to the North in accordance of the principle of proportionality."

"(Yoon) showed determination in a situation that was at risk of escalation," the official said.

Yoon also voiced regret that the National Assembly slashed the government's proposed budget for anti-drone operations by 50 percent next year, saying he will work to convince the Assembly to increase the amount.

"We will strengthen our surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities by introducing advanced stealth drones," he said.

The National Assembly passed the 638.7 trillion-won (US$497 billion) government budget early Saturday after weeks of wrangling between rival parties over how far to cut the corporate tax rate and other issues.

Under a compromise deal, the parties decided to cut the corporate tax rate by 1 percentage point in each of the four tax brackets, although the government and the ruling People Power Party had called for a 3 percentage-point cut,

"It is very regrettable that the new government's first budget aimed at reviving people's livelihoods in difficult economic circumstances was sharply revised," Yoon said.

This week's Cabinet meeting drew special attention because Yoon was set to approve pardons for a number of politicians, including former President Lee Myung-bak.

"We collected the opinions of various circles and carefully decided on the subject and scope of the pardons," Yoon said. "I hope these pardons will serve to unite our national strength."

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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