[EDITORIALS]Satisfy both sidesDonald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, reportedly threatened to relocate U.S. Air Force troops here to other countries unless an air-to-ground bombing training facility was guaranteed. Korea and the United States agreed that the loss from the gradual reduction of U.S. army troops would be compensated for with increased air force strength. It is regrettable that the shortage of proper training facilities pushed the situation that far.
U.S. Air Force pilots are promoted based on their training records. Their former facility had special equipment that recorded pilots’ scores automatically. But such equipment is not included in the Gunsan air bases, which the U.S. Air Force has used increasingly since August, when the bombing range in Maehyangri, Gyeonggi province, was shut down.
The U.S. demanded that Korea’s Defense Ministry install the equipment. The ministry promised to prepare it by August.
The problem is that the city of Gunsan, which has the right to issue the permit for the installation, has taken a vague stance on the matter. This is because the citizens of Gunsan, led by civic groups, will likely protest vigorously. These people argue that the equipment to keep scores will lead to more hours of training and more bombings. That will damage their fishery, they also say, and the residents will have to listen to the noise.
But there is another reason for their protests ― the residents are disappointed with the government’s decision to set up a radioactive waste facility in another city. Instead, Gunsan has been chosen as a “pinch hitter” of Maehyangri to enhance the U.S. Air Force’s training facility.
This issue might be even harder to solve than the incident at Pyeongtaek. Citizens and the government have to work together and prepare a solution that satisfies both the residents and the U.S. troops.
The central government should solve this problem, instead of leaving it to the city of Gunsan. They should set up a task force in the central administration.
The government should listen to citizens’ opinions so it doesn’t repeat the mistakes it made at Pyeongtaek.
The government waited until the situation got worse and worse before it intervened.
As long as we keep the U.S. military presence here, we need to provide it with proper training facilities.
Troops that cannot train are worthless. In this respect, citizens should look at the big picture.