[EDITORIALS]What of national defense?The government has effectively accepted the U.S. plan to move the 2d Infantry Division to the Osan-Pyeongtaek area in southern Gyeonggi province. The report comes even as stock markets tumble on the news that North Korea has admitted to having some nuclear weapons. Moving the 2d Infantry Division from Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, means the end of its symbolic “tripwire” role of a deterrent against an invasion by the North. It may mean the end of the fundamental policy of South Korean defense that involved an automatic involvement of the U.S. military in the event of a North Korean invasion.
South Korea must have in place a self-defense policy that includes how to fill the vacuum created by the move of the U.S. division and how much more defense spending will be required before there are discussions about realigning the U.S. military posture on the Korean Peninsula. There will be a lot of fears to allay.
The government has promised that it will provide 16.5 square kilometers (6.4 square miles) of land to the United States for the move, despite the lack of preparation to ensure a strong defense posture. We have to question whether we can trust this administration. And why did the discussions continue despite the statement by Prime Minister Goh Kun that they were suspended until the North Korean issues were resolved? The administration will likely try to say that the timing of the move has not yet been decided, but it is still incomprehensible that a matter of this importance would be handled so carelessly.
The incompetence displayed by the government in neglecting the defense preparedness of the capital region could be an indication of the government’s general incompetence in managing the country. It has agreed to a move of the U.S. military headquarters and half the U.S. military presence here to rear positions. The priority for the government should not be going along blindly with discussions about realigning the U.S. military in Korea, but on addressing the need to establish a more self-reliant defense. The government is responsible for national security.