|President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech while boarding the Navy's 4,900-ton Ilchulbong landing ship on the sidelines of the 2018 International Fleet Review at the nation's southern resort island of Jeju, Thursday. / Yonhap|
By Lee Min-hyung
President Moon Jae-in has expressed his strong willingness to tighten the Navy's combat prowess, calling the naval force the "symbol of national power."
"National defense power is crucial for us to realize our goal of prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula," the President said in an address on the sidelines of the Navy's 2018 International Fleet Review, Thursday.
"Above all, the Navy symbolizes national power for countries engaging in trading activities," Moon said.
The Navy kicked off the global event Wednesday at the southern resort island of Jeju. Forty-six countries sent naval delegations for the event where they discussed ways to enhance naval partnerships.
"The Korean Peninsula is in a state of armistice," Moon said. "But the two Koreas declared to end their military confrontation and began a bilateral journey for permanent peace and complete denuclearization here."
He went on to stress the role of the Navy as a key player to bring peace across the globe beyond the peninsula.
"I will make the Korean Navy stronger so it can contribute to bringing peace in Northeast Asia and the world," the President said. "A strong defense power comes from the public's trust. The reason we have gathered here for this event is because the ocean is the hope for our future and is a home for all of us to preserve."
President Moon reviewed the vessels participating in the event from the Navy's 4,900-ton Ilchulbong landing ship.
Forty vessels and 24 aircraft took part in the fleet review.
After taking part in the event, President Moon met with residents of Jeju's Gangjeong village where a naval base is located.
In 2007, the local residents strongly protested against the government after it finalized a plan to build the naval base.
The President offered a word of consolation to a group of residents in a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon, in what Cheong Wa Dae said was a move to show them the government's desire to help reduce their emotional pain.
"The government was supposed to receive opinions from the local residents while carrying out the plan," presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a media briefing. But a conflict arose after both sides failed to narrow their differences, according to Kim.
"The President will deliver a message that the Navy's Jeju base is pivotal to maintaining peace in Northeast Asia beyond the island," Kim said.