[EDITORIALS]Hanging the Navy out to dry

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[EDITORIALS]Hanging the Navy out to dry

The military should reconsider its recent measures that revised the operational guidelines for dealing with North Korean vessels that have crossed the Northern Limit Line. The Joints Chief of Staff guidelines previously called for a warning maneuver before firing a warning shot and then engaging in actual combat. A new step has been added that says that unless the intentions of North Korean vessels crossing the line are to challenge the validity of that sea border, commanders should act with caution before firing warning shots.
The military explained that the changes were made to provide more flexibility and prevent inadvertent clashes now that there is a new hotline between the two militaries.
It is hard for us to understand the military’s explanation. First, the added measures are too vague. In a situation that could easily end up in combat, how does a field commander determine if a North Korean vessel is trying to nullify the Northern Limit Line? How can he know what the North’s real intentions are? Operational guidelines should be simple and clear so that soldiers can deal with any situation. Such vague guidelines mean that commanders are left on their own to judge the situation, and after warning shots are fired, the military is put under a magnifying glass by its own commander in chief. Have the Joint Chiefs of Staff forgotten the lesson of the battle in the Yellow Sea, when complex operational guidelines resulted in heavy losses for our navy?
The chairman of the Chiefs of Staff explains that in the past a North Korean naval vessel was allowed to cross to rescue a North Korean fishing vessel, and that the new changes have taken into account such incidents. This is a clear-cut case in which a commander can make the right decisions and warning shots are not needed. Why, then, were such vaguely worded changes made to the operational guidelines?
The defense ministry says that the changes are to accommodate the agreements between senior military officials of the North and South in June. The agreements are already halfhearted things and North Korea has breached them. It is hard to understand why we are the only ones trying to uphold the agreement by taking questionable measures.
If North Korean vessels cross the line, we now have to judge their intentions. Does the government want to nullify the Northern Limit Line by its own hand?
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