&#91EDITORIALS&#93Nothing to relax about

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Nothing to relax about

Military tensions on the Korean Peninsula are running high these days. The United States, which extended the stay of its military personnel in Korea for six months, has deployed additional B-52 and B-1 bombers in Guam. The United States is reportedly considering dispatching another aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula, should the carrier Kitty Hawk be assigned to seas off Iraq. Against the backdrop of such military buildup around the peninsula, North Korea said threateningly, "We will take self-defensive measures against a move to dominate the Korean Peninsula."

Judging from both sides' statements and their readiness, the tensions surrounding the peninsula are no less than the Persian Gulf area, where a war seems imminent. Some American news media have warned that "the North Korean nuclear crisis is far more perilous." And they warned of Seoul turning into "a sea of fire" and worse.

Contrary to such an urgent situation, Korean society, including the government, is quite relaxed. It seems that Koreans take these events as things happening in a foreign country. What can be more urgent that securing human lives?

This military buildup is not desirable. Recent measures taken by Washington have two aspects. One is a precautionary measure against North Korea, warning that country not to misjudge the situation. The other is a preemptive measure to cope with a situation in which North Korea ventures to extract plutonium from used fuel rods. The current military situation is a result of the North's insistence on its nuclear program.

What is needed is North Korea's announcement that it will once more adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and freeze all its nuclear facilities, restoring surveillance monitors. We worry whether recent military measures were taken after consultation between Seoul and Washington. If not, there must be serious problem in the U.S.-South Korea military alliance and that problem must be addressed immediately.
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