[EDITORIALS]Egg on Seoul’s face

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[EDITORIALS]Egg on Seoul’s face

North Korea test-fired missiles in defiance of warnings from international society. According to the South Korean government, seven missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, a Taepodong 2, had been fired since early yesterday morning.
The United States called this a provocation and declared a hard-line response. Japan also called it a grave incident that threatened its security, and imposed economic sanctions against the North such as banning a North Korean vessel, the Mankyongbong, from entering its ports.
The South Korean government also issued an statement that North Korea should take responsibility for the problems brought on by its missile launching.
The security in Northeast Asia is in turmoil. The Korean Peninsula is in danger because of North Korea’s missile tests.
So far, Seoul has asked Pyongyang to drop its plans to test-fire its missiles in a soft tone, as if saying something that it did not want to say. The fear of North Korea’s missile launches has become a reality.
Judging from how Seoul reacted when Pyongyang seemed to be preparing its missile launch and after it actually did so, we gather that the administration’s ideas about emergencies and security are very vague. Compared to Washington and Tokyo, Seoul is handling the matter as if it is somebody else’s concern. North Korea’s preparations for a missile launch were first seen in May. Since then, the South Korean government has reacted with a lax attitude.
The administration focused more on a June 15 celebration event that marked the Pyongyang summit meeting in 2000 than it did on missiles.
The foreign minister sent one or two warning messages as a mere formality. A senior official at the Blue House even defended the North by saying that it might be trying to launch a satellite, not test a military weapons delivery system.
While the United States and Japan, who have advanced and detailed intelligence on North Korea, said the missile was a military threat, the South Koreans in charge of foreign and security matters were defending the North.
We wonder what they will say now that the launches have taken place. The people are fearful, because these people who say such irresponsible things are in charge of the nation’s security.
In the early morning yesterday, North Korea sent messages to warn ships away from a sea area where its missiles would land, using an international frequency for maritime communications.
South Korean government officials, however, did not report this warning. The government’s reaction right after the first missile launch was also hard to understand.
In Japan, within half an hour of the first launch, a special meeting was arranged at the residence of the prime minister, and soon a meeting was convened involving all ministers concerned.
But at the Blue House, a similar meeting was held only hours after the North’s first missile launch. The South Korean president received the report at 5 a.m., after a Taepodong-2 was launched.
Even though intermediate- and short-range missiles are more dangerous to South Korea than long-range ones, the government officials ignored the launches of such missiles. The North has crossed a line. It needs to be prepared to pay the price for placing the Korean Peninsula in danger.
The South Korean government has lost enormous face and its foothold in international society, because Seoul consistently defended Pyongyang in an attempt to bring it back to the six-nation negotiations.
Now stronger sanctions will be imposed on the North and it will be even more isolated in the international community.
The U.S. president and the prime minister of Japan had already said that they would put pressure on the North in a variety of ways if the North fired a missile, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China also had told the North to restrain itself from a missile launch.
The South Korean government needs to understand what is going on and how to react properly. If it continues to defend North Korea, this nation will also be isolated in the international society, along with North Korea. South Korea should understand and admit that as long as the North continues its provocative acts, economic cooperation between the two Koreas is not possible.
We should reconsider whether or not we should keep providing humanitarian aid, such as rice and fertilizer, to the North.
We should show that a wrongful act is to be punished.
From now on, an alliance between South Korea, the United States and Japan becomes even more important. The three countries should be careful not to produce discord over North Korean issues. The South Korean government feels the least urgency in this regard, even though it is the country that faces the biggest threat from the North. Something has gone very badly awry in the government councils in Seoul.
Seoul must stop reciting its mantra about inter-Korean cooperation. It should react sternly to the North, while beefing up its relations with Washington and Tokyo.
North Korea should return to the six-party talks. The North should know that this is the only way that it can survive in the modern world.
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