Too Early to Drop North‘s Title as “Primary Threat”

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Too Early to Drop North‘s Title as “Primary Threat”

In their Thursday meeting, the South Korean National Assembly‘s defence committee argued over North Korea’s position as the “primary threat” to South Korea. It is a good thing that the inter-Korea talks created an atmoshere of reconciliation between the two nations, but the changing of the perspective that North Korea is South Korea's core enemy may be too soon. June 25 is the 50 year anniversary of the Korean War (1950-1953) which the North started suddenly and without provocation. We have to keep in mind what history teaches us. Changing the North’s status is too soon for both sides.

“It is inappropriate to discuss dropping the North as our primary threat when the North does not show any sign of shifting its military strategy towards us,” answered Cho Sung-tae, the Minister of the Defense, at the National Assembly meeting, and his response is fully understandable.

One lawmaker said, “Portraying the North as our ‘primary threat’ and pursuing a peaceful partnership is a contradiction, its like sleeping with the enemy.” But this is the situation we are now facing on the peninsula. Another said, "There is no concept of a 'primary threat' in other nations." This writer wants to ask, “Is there any other place like the Korean peninsula with its amassed military weapons pointing at each other?”

We need to separate the policies of economics and defense. Changing our military strategy towards the North would immediately affect the people‘s daily lives. The South and North signed an agreement in 1992 which covered several articles, including maintaining the peace, avoiding attacks on each other, and basic exchanges and partnerships in a variety of sectors, however, the treaty was not implemented during the past years, resulting in a naval skirmish on the West Sea last year. The inter-Korea Summit promised a joint committee on national defense but there has been no progress towards this goal. Although the mood for reconciliation is healthy, we must consider what should come first.

The Ministry of Defense states its aim as, “Protecting the nation from the our primary threat North Korea and all foreign enemies.” This is taken from the lesson of the Korean War a half century ago and the situation that followed.

For the reevaluation of the North, both sides on the peninsula should first work to shift their military strategy. Some of the small moves that should be made include the launching of a direct phone line between the two sides, canceling some anti-North Korean events for the June 25 Korean War Anniversary in the South, and the North's cancelation of their ceremony for July 27, a day of triumph in the Korean War by North Korea's definition.

The South’s government should hasten the creation of the joint committee of the military as set out in the 1992 agreement. The issue of dropping or keeping the title of "primary threat" all comes from the existence of the military danger posed by the North.

The argument over this issue should take place soon, but only when the time is right. Early discussions on the issue will just create confusion among the “new generation” soldiers who have no memory of the bitter war. The current arguments over North Korea as the “primary threat” are too soon.

by Koo Doo-hoon

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