[EDITORIALS]Last bastion of the nation

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[EDITORIALS]Last bastion of the nation

President Roh Moo-hyun, on the occasion of Armed Forces Day, reiterated that the government would pursue an independent national defense, the balanced development of the Korea-U.S. alliance and a restructuring of Korea’s defense posture. We agree with him absolutely. There is not a single person who would oppose self-defense. The same applies to the restructuring of the defense posture. The problem is whether we have the means to do so. If it is mere lip service, what else can we say? We need to know how these policies will be implemented. Then we can start with realizing cool-headedly on the realities we face.
Next year’s defense budget is 20.8 trillion won ($18 billion), an increase of 9.9 percent, higher than average annual increase of 7 percent. Of the defense budget, investment in military capabilities is about 9 trillion won. With this amount, we can only manage to pay for such projects as acquisition of Aegis cruisers and AWACS planes, that are promoted as continued programs. They are scheduled to be completed after 2010. The defense budget is not only huge in amount, but also includes long-term investments. Under the present situation, there are no fiscal resources available to invest in the development of new weapons systems.
That means that independent national defense is not possible without support from the economic sector. Our economy must be strong and prosperous enough to afford good defense. The government must make a blueprint showing the amount needed for self-defense, the financial sources and the means for providing such amounts. If the amount of defense spending increases, spending in other sectors like social welfare will be sacrificed. For self-defense, the economy must be revitalized. Hanging out abstract political slogans is nothing but empty propaganda. It is the same with the restructuring of the defense posture. Restructuring the military and filling important posts in the defense ministry with civilians is not that easy. Balanced development of the three armed services and reshaping the military’s chain of command can bring fatal damage to national defense, if they go in the wrong direction.
All changes should be based on the premise that they contribue to strengthening our military capability. National security is the last bastion of the nation. It must not be swayed by politics. That is the reason why defense must be handled in the most conservative way.
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