[EDITORIALS]Intelligence weakness is clear

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[EDITORIALS]Intelligence weakness is clear

The explosions in North Korea’s Yanggang province revealed a serious shortcoming in South Korea’s intelligence on the North. Five days have passed since the incident, but the government appears to have no clue about it.
“It doesn’t appear to be a nuclear test,” and “Isn’t it a fire, not an explosion?” are the government’s analyses of the situation. Although a huge cloud with a diameter of 3.5 kilometers was reportedly seen over a militarily sensitive area, South Korea’s intelligence ability does not go beyond such an analysis. With this kind of capability, we are extremely concerned about how the government would be able to detect signs of North Korean provocation.
The government has been saying that its intelligence on the North has reached a considerable level, by combining its satellite and aerial photos, eavesdropping capability and human intelligence. If Seoul knows the specifics of the incident, but has a reason to not reveal everything, that would probably be more fortunate.
But, we can see that Seoul has only low-quality intelligence about critical events, such as the recent explosion or any signs of provocation. Most importantly, satellite image data are poor. Because of heavy clouds, it takes time to analyze aerial photos, the government said. Why would the North want to stage a provocation or conduct a nuclear test under a clear sky, given the higher possibility of being detected?
U.S. reconnaissance capability is extremely precise, beyond our imagination. Its Defense Support Program satellites show clear photos of cloud-covered areas by using infrared light. It is even possible to measure the temperature of an object that exploded. The United States, however, is not giving such information to the South, Seoul officials admitted. Why is this happening? The Roh administration knows the answer very well. By allowing anti-American sentiment ― even the president had said, “What’s wrong with some anti-Americanism?” ― we are now facing this situation.
The government must have felt the desperate need to obtain intelligence from Washington. It’s not too late to come up with a better system to share information with the United States more smoothly. The Roh administration must remember that many people, already concerned about security due to the U.S. troop reduction here, are worrying even more after seeing the government’s handling of this incident.

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