Foreign minister travels to Russia amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed to ease tension on the Korean peninsula.
|Hwang Eui-don resigned as army chief after a property investment scandal [AFP]|
South Korea’s army chief has resigned, reportedly over a property investment, at a time of high tensions with North Korea following its deadly artillery attack last month.
A defence ministry spokesman told AFP news agency on Tuesday that General Hwang Eui-don’s resignation has been accepted.
According to the Yonhap news agency, the general, who was named to his current post in
June, had become embroiled in a controversy over profits from a property investment.
“General Hwang offered to retire following media reports about his property investment, because he judged it was inappropriate for him to stay in the post at a time when he has to lead reform of the army,” Yonhap quoted an unidentified defence ministry official as saying.
The resignation is a further blow to the South’s military, which was widely criticised for its perceived weak response to the North’s shelling of an island near the disputed Yellow Sea border on November 23.
Kim Tae-Young, the defence minister, resigned after the shelling, which killed four people including two civilians. It was the first attack on a civilian area in the South since the 1950-53 war and sparked a regional crisis.
The South fired 80 artillery rounds at the North’s artillery batteries in response but did not call in air raids.
The bombardment was launched less than two weeks after the North disclosed an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant to visiting US experts.
It said the operation was intended to fuel a nuclear power plant. But senior US and other officials fear it could be reconfigured to produce weapons-grade uranium, to augment the North’s plutonium stockpile.
On Monday, Sergei Lavrov Russia’s foreign minister, expressed his “deep concern” about the North’s industrial uranium enrichment capability at a meeting with his visiting North Korean counterpart Pak Ui-Chun.
Lavrov urged North Korea to comply with UN Security Council resolutions banning such activities, and called for a resumption of six-party talks aimed at negotiating an end to the North’s nuclear programmes.
Russia is one of the six countries involved in the stalled talks alongside the two Koreas, China, Japan and the United States.
China, the North’s sole major ally, has called for a new meeting of six-party envoys to resolve the latest crisis.
But the United States, Japan and South Korea say a return to negotiations at this point could reward the North’s aggression.
They want China, which has failed publicly to condemn its ally for the island attack, to take a tougher line.