[EDITORIALS]Good advice for a bad planCho Young-kil, the first defense minister in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, harshly criticized the problems in the government’s plan to assume wartime operational command of the army. In an article written for a media outlet, he pointed to two major flaws.
The first question is whether the government thought about the possibility that the Korean Peninsula might become insecure when the United States hands over wartime control and thus acquires the freedom to carry out military strikes against the North. The second part is that the U.S. troops here and support from Washington in an emergency will be merely an illusion, because Korea-U.S. relations have deteriorated so much already. This is good advice for the current administration.
The government argues that taking over wartime control restores our sovereignty, but the former defense minister claims that this makes no sense. He maintains that to sign or to terminate a mutual defense treaty or a military agreement is an act of exercising a country’s sovereignty, but that wartime operational command is a measure that is necessary when dealing with a pre-emptive attack by North Korea.
Mr. Cho pointed out that the government is unaware of the importance of sharing wartime operational command with the United States. He reminded people that in 1994, during the North’s nuclear crisis, Washington’s plans to attack the North were changed due to South Korean opposition. In this regard, to share wartime control with Washington is very important, not only for the security of South Korea but also for the survival of the North, considering that the North has even fired missiles and its nuclear threat has become even more serious. The South Korean government, which cries out for “peace,” should listen to this advice. Mr. Cho also wrote that an ally that has lost trust is worse than an enemy. It is not right to believe that the United States will be always there for us, while allowing anti-American protests and restricting the training of U.S. troops, which offends Washington.
The South Korean government claims that Washington’s support will remain unchanged even if Korea exercises wartime control. There are no grounds for this argument. The U.S. government has made no official remarks on this but instead has talked about sharing costs for keeping U.S. troops in Korea. Mr. Cho’s argument is persuasive. The government should see why the former defense minister had to step up and express his concerns.