[EDITORIALS]Is command also control?National Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung changed his remarks on wartime operational command on Thursday, at the National Assembly. He at first had said, “The system of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command is something close to an infringement of our country’s sovereignty.”
As this remark sparked controversy, he changed his words and said, “It was inappropriate to say the issue of wartime control is directly related to sovereignty.” But the latter is then at odds with President Roh Moo-hyun’s remark that related wartime control to sovereignty. The National Defense Ministry explained that the minister meant to say that a thorough exercise of wartime control had been limited for our sovereign country.
A top military official seems confused about the basic concept of wartime operational control, which will have a huge influence on our national security. Former Defense Minister Chun Yong-taek, who was a leading negotiator for the takeover of peacetime operational command in the early 1990s, said, “Wartime operational command is a means to winning a war. The issue of wartime control does not need to be interpreted widely into an issue of sovereignty,” he added.
This administration, however, has related the issue to sovereignty. In this context, the government has stuck to the expression “to retake control” when “exclusive exercise of wartime control by Korea’s military” is the right expression.
Before talking about right and wrong, government officials should at least display the same attitude and use the same words. The people can then make judgments based on those. When the defense minister changes his words, it is hard to know what he has on his mind.
Worries arise over a plan to establish separate commands by Korea and the United States, and plans for a headquarters for “cooperation on operation” after the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command are dismantled.
Lee Yang-ho, a former defense minister and Air-Force serviceman, said that if more than one person takes command when hundreds of jet fighters operate at high speed, they cannot have the force under control. He has a good point.
We should pay attention to the remark that cooperation on operation is very likely to fail when the two parts are under different commands. If the government plans to build such a body, it is hard to see why it tried so hard to tear down the well-established combined command.