In S. Korea, Hamas ambush raises concerns over NK surprise attacks

A surprise and large-scale attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas has intensified security concerns in South Korea, underscoring the pressing need for the country to fortify its military readiness in countering a potential blitz from North Korea including artillery attacks targeting densely populated metropolitan areas.

The newly appointed Defense Minister Shin Won-sik publicly underscored on Tuesday that Hamas' largest surprise attack on Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur War has illuminated the necessity of promptly suspending the inter-Korean military agreement. Shin pointed out that the agreement hinders South Korea's ability to monitor and conduct reconnaissance over North Korea.

Shin further emphasized that the inadequate aerial surveillance and monitoring by Israel over the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip enabled the militant group to keep its plans for the unprecedented onslaught shrouded under wraps, in addition to the failure of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

"If Israel had upheld continuous monitoring and surveillance of the region by deploying drones or other airborne assets, such an incident might have been averted. This is because rockets launched (by Hamas) require open outdoor spaces for firing, as they produce flames during launch," Shin asserted during his first meeting with reporters at the Defense Ministry after his inauguration on Saturday.

"If Israel can conduct comprehensive aerial surveillance over the Gaza Strip, it would significantly improve the country's early warning capabilities."

Similarly, Shin pointed out that the current inter-Korean military agreement's restrictions, such as the establishment of no-fly zones near the inter-Korean border, severely limit the South Korean military's ability to monitor and promptly detect signs of provocation by North Korea in frontline areas in real time.

"In reality, the Republic of Korea is facing even more substantial threats (than Israel)," Shin claimed, referring to South Korea by its official name.

"We must maintain a vigilant stance through surveillance and monitoring to respond effectively because it allows us to discern whether a provocation is imminent or not."

The Sept. 19 inter-Korean military agreement was signed during the 2018 inter-Korean summit, held during the tenure of the Moon Jae-in government. The primary objective of this agreement was to reduce military tensions between the two Koreas, who technically remain at war. As part of this effort, the agreement also included provisions for the establishment of buffer zones in the land, sea and air.

Shin expressed his commitment to expedite the suspension of the inter-Korea military agreement's effectiveness "as soon as possible." The new defense chief also indicated his intention to shift the existing policy of the Yoon Suk Yeol government, which re-evaluates the effectiveness of the military agreement should North Korea make provocations that invade South Korean territory.

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