[EDITORIALS]Quiet down on defenseRecently there has been much turmoil created by the claims of Representative Roh Hoe-chan of the Democratic Labor Party. He said that although Seoul and Washington have already agreed on the function of U.S. forces stationed on the peninsula as a regional force, the South Korean government is hiding the details from the public. He said, “The government knows that the regional function includes a preemptive strike on China and North Korea and it has approved it while deceiving the people.”
The Defense Ministry immediately released a press statement denying the accusation made by the lawmaker.
The issue surfaced at the Future of the Alliance Talks that started in April 2003 when the United States first brought up the issue of “strategic flexibility.” The issue is currently being studied by experts from both sides. It has been known that the government’s stance is that it understands the United States’ strategic changes, but since there is a possibility of misunderstandings inside and outside the country, there should be a serious study of the issue. The government has not yet made up its mind regarding this matter, officials say. Nevertheless, Mr. Roh cited classified documents from the Defense Ministry to claim that both sides agreed on it twice.
Mr. Roh is accusing the Defense Ministry of lying to the people while the ministry is denying it. There is a strong possibility that such a war of words will only create misunderstandings and controversy. This is of deep concern because a continued debate could create the wrong impression on the function of the U.S. forces on the peninsula as a regional force and it could create a negative image of the U.S. forces itself.
The issue of U.S. forces becoming a regional force in the region could prompt a misunderstanding from China, North Korea and other countries around the peninsula. It is a very delicate foreign policy and security issue on which the foundation of the South Korea-U.S. defense alliance depends. Such an important issue should not become the subject of pointless debates without the consensus of the people. Considering that South Korea is surrounded by powerful countries, the first step should be in-depth discussions among experts on this issue. Mr. Roh and the Defense Ministry should immediately put an end to their endless debates and start searching for a real solution to cement our security.