[EDITORIALS]Emotion and securityIn his address at a ceremony commemorating Armed Forces Day on Saturday, President Roh Moo-hyun declared that the Korean military would become “an autonomous force that can be responsible for the security of the Korean Peninsula by itself through exercising wartime operational control authority.” President Roh has emphasized on several occasions Korea’s need for “independent operation execution capability” and “an autonomous military with its own operation control authority.” His comments can be interpreted as a call for the legitimate and basic rights of a sovereign state and a reemphasis on our military’s long-term goal. No one would argue with the president’s vow that we must increase our ability to be responsible for our own national defense.
But the issue of wartime operational control authority must be approached with more prudence, as it would be a fundamental change in the present command and control system, in which that authority would be handed over to the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command if there were another war on the Korean Peninsula.
This is an extremely important issue because of the effects a change would have on the Korea-U.S. military alliance, the core of our security. We need to study carefully alternatives that may be more effective than the current sytem for national defense, and discuss with the United States the new role and functions of the alliance in the future. Above all, we need to acquire the military capability necessary for autonomous national defense.
Our military is working on a new wartime planning and execution system with a target date of 2020, centered on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Plans to negotiate a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula have also surfaced recently. Ten of the key military roles of U.S. forces in Korea are gradually being transferred to the Korean military, and the Ministry of Defense is discussing the command system with the U.S. government in meetings under the Security Policy Initiative.
The goal of an autonomous national defense is to guarantee peace and security. We must look objectively at our situation, a divided nation surrounded by military superpowers. Emotional calls for “autonomy” could in reality damage our autonomous national defense in the true sense of the term. We must maintain our calm and concentrate on building up our military defense capability.