[EDITORIALS]A military isn’t a ‘balancer’

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[EDITORIALS]A military isn’t a ‘balancer’

Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung has asked the nation’s military “to become a pillar to support South Korea’s role as Northeast Asia’s balancer.” We are not sure what is meant by “balancer,” but Mr. Yoon was apparently asking the military to support President Roh Moo-hyun’s recent statement, in which he used that term to characterize how he foresees South Korea’s role in Northeast Asia.
Mr. Roh himself was unable to provide any specific or convincing arguments about how to make Korea a regional balancer. It seems to be an ambiguous wish that Northeast Asia’s geopolitical order be dependent on Korean decisions. Or it could be viewed as meaning that Korea will try to stop China and Japan from dominating the region. It is an immature concept, offering an unclear picture.
The Roh administration said the Korea-U.S. alliance would be the axis of such a plan, but we have seen ruptures in that alliance. That is why the people worry about this “balancer” idea. Now, even the defense minister is using the term. We wonder what the military’s position is, and what Mr. Yoon meant by urging it to be the “pillar” of such an ambiguous concept.
Our military’s primary duty is to defend the country from North Korea. When the defense minister speaks of being a balancer, does he mean that the military should shift its gaze from North Korea and toward a balancing role between China and Japan? Is our military capable of that?
Our military capabilities are far below those of China and Japan, and the minister knows this better than anyone. Mr. Yoon’s background is in the Navy, and he knows very well that South Korea does not even have a single Aegis cruiser, whereas Japan has four. And he knows better than anyone what that means.
The notion of being a regional balancer is unrealistic, given our current military capabilities. That is why we have been putting so much emphasis on the alliance with the United States. Being a balancer can only be discussed after North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions are resolved. Until then, this unrealistic idea will only isolate us in the region.
Mr. Yoon was either blind to reality or trying to please Mr. Roh. It appears that the military is voluntarily jumping into politics. National defense is the foundation of a nation, and the military should stand aloof from the political agendas of any administration.
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