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South Korean National Security, Defense Advisers Named Following Cabinet Shakeup - 2004-01-30

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has named new national security and defense advisers following a rift within his government over policy toward the United States. The shakeup comes as South Korea prepares to address the North Korean nuclear crisis at inter-Korean talks next week.

A South Korean presidential spokesman announced Friday that two retired three-star generals will take over the sensitive posts of national security adviser and defense adviser to the president.

Yoon Kwang-ung, a former navy general, is President Roh Moo-hyun's new defense adviser, while Kwon Chin-ho, a former deputy head of the National Intelligence Service and a retired army general, was named national security adviser.

The spokesman gave Mr. Kwon high marks for his international and security experience. Among other things, the former army officer was South Korea's security chief for the 2002 soccer (football) World Cup.

No reason was given for the changes, which come as the South Korean leadership and other governments attempt to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Two weeks ago, President Roh dismissed his foreign minister, Yoon Young-kwan, and several other top diplomats in a dispute pitting pro-U.S. foreign ministry officials against younger, more nationalistic presidential aides.

The president was elected in December 2002 on pledges of more independence from the United States, and reconciliation with North Korea.

Since taking office, however, Mr. Roh has stressed the importance of a strong alliance with Washington, despite policy differences over how to deal with North Korea.

Analysts said the appointment of former military men to the national security and defense adviser positions might mean Mr. Roh is leaning towards the U.S. position, which is to keep pressure on Pyongyang.

The South Korean government is preparing for a new round of cabinet-level inter-Korean talks in Seoul next week. The South's chief delegate to those discussions, Jeong Se-hyun, Thursday reaffirmed that the nuclear issue would top the agenda.

Mr. Jeong also said he is optimistic about an early resumption of six-nation talks aimed at halting the North's nuclear program. The talks - involving China, Japan, North and South Korea, the United States and Russia - have been on hold since a first, inconclusive round was held in Beijing in August.