Military cautious over service term

The Defence Ministry expressed caution Friday over President-elect Park Geun-hye's election pledge to shorten compulsory military service during its policy briefing to her transition committee.

It has argued that the plan to shorten the service term by three months to 18 months could result in a troop shortage and weaken overall combat capabilities, considering the country's aging population.

The presidential transition team began receiving policy briefings on the day from six of the 46 central government departments and agencies. The briefing by the Defence Ministry was the first of the day, underscoring national security's high position on the committee's priority list.

The Small and Medium Business Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare and Ministry of Environment also briefed the transition team on their ongoing and future projects and policy objectives.

The transition team has decided not to release details of the ministries' reports to prevent any "unnecessary confusion" regarding policies.

"Any policy confusion could undermine public trust, and then damage the government's capability to carry out the policy. We ask for your understanding as we take caution about the policy reports," the team's spokesperson Yoon Chang-jung told reporters.

During its policy briefing to the presidential transition committee, the Defence Ministry was said to have reaffirmed that it would continue to prepare to retake wartime operational control as scheduled for December 2015.

The transition team and the ministry appear to share the view that the OPCON transfer should be carried out as planned unless North Korea poses a serious security challenge by launching lethal provocations.

To maintain a robust defence posture following the transfer, Kim Jang-soo, who heads the transition team's subpanel on foreign affairs and defence, has envisioned establishing a combined battle staff consisting of a South Korean commander, a US deputy commander and other officers from the allied militaries.

The allies have been in consultation over a new combined command structure at a joint working group, which was established on Dec. 21. The current Combined Forces Command is to be dissolved following the transfer.

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