[VIEWPOINT]Command transfer has nuclear dimensionAccording to “Shock-wave: Countdown to Hiroshima” by Ste-phen Walker, a BBC producer, United States officials had difficulty deciding where to drop the world’s first atomic bomb. On May 10, 1945, two months before countdown to a nuclear test, the names of five Japanese cities that were listed as possible targets were reported to J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project that produced the bomb. The main criterion was the psychological shock from the destruction to be wrought by the bomb. Kyoto, most preferred by the U.S. Air Force, ranked first on the list and next was Hiroshima.
Hiroshima was an attractive target for bombing in Mr. Oppenheimer’s view. From that day on, U.S. bombers avoided flying over Hiroshima. Rumors on why the U.S. B-29 bombers skipped over Hiroshima began to spread. One of them was that the mother of President Truman lived somewhere in Hiroshima under deep cover. However, the real reason was Hiroshima was a city selected especially for a destiny different from other Japanese cities. On August 6 that year, the bomb, “Little Boy,” took the lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima.
I was in the army more than 20 years ago, long before all nuclear weapons were withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula following the Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Declaration by former president Roh Tae-woo. My artillery battalion posted near Mount Daesong in Hwacheon County, Gangwon Province, was often visited for inspection by the U.S. military advisers stationed in Wonju. They test-fired mock strategic nuclear artillery shells with 155-millimeter artillery that we brought to them. I still remember that I wore four to five underpants layer by layer whenever there was such a military drill, out of fear that I would be exposed to radioactivity.
In conversations that I overheard from military officers, the power of a 30-kilogram nuclear bomb was formidable. The range of a 155-millimeter artillery round was 22 kilometers(13.67 miles), and the area within a 4-5 kilometer radius from the point of impact of the shell would be incapacitated in a blink. Even tanks could not pass a contaminated area for some months as the drivers would be killed by the radioactivity. The military officers proclaimed, “If a few strategic nuclear artillery shells are fired along the main invasion routes to the North, the battlefront will be deadlocked. Ultimately, we will win the war as we have command of the air.”
There is no need to use a strategic nuclear weapon like the one that smashed Hiroshima. With only a few nuclear artillery shells, the situation in a war can be changed completely.
Therefore, a nuclear weapon is an asymmetric military capability.
And the world is divided between nuclear-armed countries and those without nuclear weapons.
A few days ago, there was wire news that North Korea seemed to be preparing for a nuclear test. There was even speculation of a 50-percent possibility the North would force-test a nuclear weapon by the end of the year. The situation is unusual. It is not clear whether the signs of a possible nuclear test are simply a hoax staged to create a crisis situation. Perhaps China’s efforts to dissuade the North from testing and strong pressure from the United States and Japan will work as variables. But it is an open secret in international society that North Korea is in possession of nuclear material and has acquired technical know-how for bomb making through high-speed explosion tests.
On Monday, President Bush telephoned President Hu Jintao of China and asked President Hu “to warn North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-il to stop nuclear weapons development.” With the heads of state of the United States and China discussing openly exercising pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons development program, we cannot exclude the possibility that this could lead to further action.
The problem lies in the reaction of the South Korean government. The Defense Ministry said, “Although there are unusual movements, it is difficult to jump to the conclusion that the North is preparing for a nuclear test.” The ministry merely sent some officials to a seismological observatory. It reminds me of President Roh Moo-hyun’s earlier remark, “North Korea’s nuclear development is for self-defense purposes.”
It is natural that a government, if it is a normal one, should safeguard national security by preparing for the worst-case scenario. Before transferring wartime control of South Korean troops, checking whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella that protects our national security is intact has precedence.
If one is beaten with rabbit punches repeatedly, one gets dizzy. That dizziness appears in President Roh’s remark, “I feel frustrated, because very often my reasonable judgments on the North go wrong.” And he lamented, “There is nothing that I can do for the North.”
Where have all those roadmaps gone? If things go on like this, South Korea will find itself confronted with a situation where we have no other choice but to depend on the “mercy” of North Korea.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Chul-ho