[EDITORIALS]An important matter of trustThe Defense Ministry announced yesterday that it will mete out warning-level punishments to ranking officials of the navy and Joint Chiefs of Staff implicated in the failure to report on an exchange of communications up the chain of command. The ministry said that it had proposed a severe reprimand but decided on the lower penalties on President Roh Moo-hyun’s orders. First of all, it is fortunate that the matter has come to a close with warnings. But it is confounding when we recall the outrage and escalation in the initial stage, as if the military made enormous mistakes. We have to wonder why the Blue House hounded the military so.
This incident generated nervousness among the public because it seemed that the commander-in-chief and the military were at odds. The outcome of the inquiry shows that the incident was largely overblown. The military concluded that the failure to report to the upper ranks stemmed from the carelessness of the military officials. The Blue House and governing party had characterized the incident as a “challenge to the commander-in-chief,” and said military hard-liners falsely reported the facts to stall the development of inter-Korean relations. The inquiry shows that was not the case.
More importantly, it was wrong of the Blue House to publicly disclose the military’s lapse in reporting immediately after being informed through a separate channel, without a thorough examination of its own. By doing so, the Blue House gave the impression that the North Korean military did nothing wrong and that our military overreacted. The Blue House could have quietly cast light on the whole situation if it had examined the North’s intentions, and whether the operations at sea proceeded by the book.
What aggravated the situation is that the Blue House does not trust the military. But there cannot and should not be distrust between the president and the military. To whom can the public then entrust national security? The Blue House and the military, in that regard, should take this opportunity to renew their views and attitudes. To forestall any misperceptions, the reports through the chain of command should be precise and the trust between the two sides should be unlimited.
We cannot afford any missteps in our response to the North because of this incident. It is disconcerting to hear voices saying that we are languishing in our response to the North’s incursions into the Northern Limit Line.