[EDITORIALS]Risks outweigh ideologyFormer U.S. Forces Korea commander Leon LaPorte said the timing of U.S. handover of wartime operational control to South Korea was never discussed until he retired from the post in February this year. He said Seoul and Washington had just begun the discussion of the transfer at the time. He also said the advice of former South Korean defense ministers is a valuable reference to the change in the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
Meanwhile, associations of former officers such as alumni organizations of Army, Naval and Air Force academies said they will issue statements to oppose South Korea’s exercise of wartime operational control alone.
The core logic of the opposition is the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s poor handling of the transfer issue. They are all saying that the timing is not right, taking into account Korea’s abilities alone. North Korea, after firing missiles, is now tinkering with the card of a nuclear test. The North also threatened yesterday that it will not be restrained by the armistice agreement. South Korea having the capability to counter such threats alone requires tremendous resources and time. Even if the United States asks the South to take over wartime operational control under these circumstances, the South should say no, adding that this is not the right time.
In order to fix the date of the transfer before the end of its term, the Roh administration must not play an unreasonable game. As the former USFK commander said, the wartime control transfer is an issue about which discussion was merely opened at the beginning of this year. After only six months, the Roh administration first said it would regain wartime control before 2015, then later changed the target date to by 2011. Now, the transfer time appears to be fixed at 2012.
And yet, the defense minister told the National Assembly that 2012 is only a target. His statement shows that this administration is having nothing more than rule of thumb discussions on the timing of the handover. Regaining wartime operational control is not a matter of ideology ― it is a realistic matter of national security.
The administration must not ignore the former defense ministers’ unprecedented advice and planned statements by alumni organizations of the military academies by saying that those speaking do not know the achievements of our military. Practicing wartime operational control alone and the negotiations on the transfer timing must be dealt with separately and the Roh administration must listen to its opposition’s logic carefully.