[VIEWPOINT]Government’s attacks do no goodThe government employs various kinds of logic in its effort to rebut the claim that the debate on the transfer of wartime control of Korean troops is premature. One argument is that the government cannot understand why these newspapers, namely the JoongAng, Chosun and Dong-A, supported the transfer of wartime control during the Roh Tae-woo and Kim Young-sam administrations, but suddenly oppose it now. President Roh made a remark along those lines.
Among the JoongAng Ilbo articles that the government cited was an editorial printed on Nov. 30, 1994. If we look into the content of the article, however, we find out that the government’s claim is nothing but a jump of logic and distortion. The editorial discussed the historic and militaristic meaning of the transfer of peacetime control of our troops from Washington. But it attached a precondition to the transfer of wartime control. The editorial said, “The transfer of complete operational control, including that of wartime control, will be possible only when our national security capability is fully developed. We hope the government and the military will exert all their efforts in preparation for bringing about that day earlier.”
Whether the Korean military has equipped itself with enough security capability should be one of the main points of discussion over the transfer of wartime control. People who oppose the transfer say the combat capabilities of South Korean troops are not strong enough to exercise independent operational command. Especially because North Korea, which had maintained a “no confirmation and no denial” policy on nuclear weapons, has since declared that it possessed nuclear bombs and has fired missiles, they believe the debate on the transfer of military control is not only unnecessary, but not urgent. They say the debate can be made after the government’s plan for building up a stronger defense is completed. The essence of their logic is this: We must independently exercise operational control of our troops, but this is not the right time to discuss the issue. However, the government insists that the transfer is “possible even now, but will be more than strong enough when we complete our military capability by 2012.”
If that is true, the government should make it clear by showing a blueprint on “how the military capability of our troops will be enhanced, and where the finances for the projects will be provided.” Then, we can have a proper debate on the basis of the blueprint. Instead, the government’s criticism of the press and abstract explanations are nothing but political agitation. They hope they will accomplish their political goal by turning it into a “political issue.”
The government said some of the press have changed their words. On security-related matters, the government and the officials in charge of foreign policy and national security have changed their words.
North Korea’s strategic weapons are designed to both threaten the United States and Japan, and to be used as practical weapons during wartime ― which pose a direct threat to our national security. The best choice left is to persuade the North, by congratulating it on its strong will and by conveying the strong will of both South Korea and the United States that the North’s policies be changed.
This is not what the military veterans or “some newspapers” claim, but Suh Choo-suk, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, himself emphasized in his column contributed to the JoongAng Ilbo in 1999 under the title, “The intention behind the North’s development of the Taepodong-2 missile and our countermeasures,” when he was a researcher at a national research institute. But after the North actually fired the Taepodong-2, he changed his position and supported the opposite theory, that the North fired it for “political purposes.”
No one objects to the fact that the transfer of wartime control from Washington has a decisive impact on our national security. If that is the case, we must open a sincere debate on fundamental problems related to it, such as whether “we have the capability to manage it when we take it over now.”
On this point, President Roh made a timely remark last month at a meeting of the Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification, which included participation from the council’s representatives from the Americas. Mr. Roh said, “What we have to do is try to coordinate the differences gradually by listening to the other side’s opinion. If we talk angrily, we will prompt a fight that leaves aside the main topic.”
Considering the worries expressed by the veteran reservists and numerous other people, including the members of the opposition and intellectuals, the president as well as the government should look back on their original intention. They must stop wasting their energy on creating logic that does more harm than good to the national interest.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Ahn Hee-chang