[EDITORIALS]A changed peninsulaNorth Korea has conducted a nuclear test despite repeated warnings from international society. North Korea proceeded with a nuclear test in a mountain area in North Hamgyong province.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula has been plunged into such extreme chaos that we cannot predict what might happen next. Sanctions against North Korea by international society, including the United Nations, will be agreed to and strictly implemented.
If North Korea conducts additional physical provocations or if the United States reacts militarily, the chaos on the Korean Peninsula will worsen uncontrollably. Korea is in danger once again, 60 years after the Korean War.
As North Korea now undeniably possesses nuclear weapons, national security in South Korea is at stake. So far, South and North Korea have managed to keep a military balance, but now it has been broken.
Even if South Korea purchases countless conventional weapons with its economy 30 times larger than that of North Korea, there will be no way to match the North’s nuclear weapons. This is one of the reasons North Korea has concentrated on developing nuclear weapons.
If national security is at stake, other sectors in society cannot be safe either. The North’s nuclear test has already had a negative influence, such as the plummeting stock market. South Koreans feel increasingly insecure. The administration that has brought on this chaos cannot avoid responsibility. President Roh Moo-hyun and his men in charge of diplomacy and national security have made unbelievable remarks.
President Roh has said, “North Korea’s nuclear development is reasonable, looking at it as a means of self-defense.” When North Korea test-fired its missiles, he said they were not aimed at South Korea.
While having insufficient information and military competence, he has indulged in talk of “self-reliance” and emphasized the identical nationality of North and South, with his eyes closed to reality. His incompetence and arrogance have resulted in allowing North Korea to be armed with nuclear weapons.
President Roh must fire his men in charge of diplomacy and national security and employ new people for the jobs, because no matter what this crew may say and no matter what measures it may devise, nobody will believe them.
The president should realize that problems and danger cannot be overcome by his staff’s questionable knowledge and competence.
President Roh should change his own perceptions on North Korea’s intentions and strategies and the dynamics of international society, unless he wants to be remembered as the president who delivered pain and hardship to his people.
South Korea will be at even bigger risk if North Korea provokes an incident in the Yellow Sea or on the truce line. To escape from this emergency, all South Koreans must work together while staying calm. We should conserve our energy instead of criticizing one another.
The ruling party and opposition parties should prepare supra-partisan measures, instead of being consumed in political strife. Although both the Kim Dae-jung administration and the current administration have far more responsibility than the opposition parties, this is not important for now. People should feel more sensitive to national security because if national security breaks down, everything else breaks down too.
Most of all, the administration should be on guard. Keeping the Korean Peninsula nuclear weapons-free has now proved to be impossible to attain. South Korea should make efforts in diplomacy to get the United States to announce explicitly that it will provide South Korea with a nuclear umbrella. We hope that the United States will soon announce this intention.
The North’s possession of nuclear weapons will lead to Japan’s nuclear development, so all our neighboring countries will certainly be armed with nuclear weapons, leaving South Korea the only country without them.
In that case, how can we preserve our national security? The United States is the only answer, throughout our history and in reality. The government should focus on restoring Korea-United States relations which have fallen apart. Diplomacy with the United States, Japan, China and Russia has become truly important.
However, because the government has shouted for self-reliance, South Korea has increasingly become isolated. The government needs to prepare ways to get China to effectively press North Korea.
The administration must respond sternly to North Korea. It needs to change its North Korea policy thoroughly. It should review seriously economic cooperation with the North and exchanges in many sectors, including halting business at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and a halt to sending tourists to Mount Kumgang.
If the administration hesitates again in making a decision, it will be isolated in international society.
If North Korea has reasoned that becoming a nuclear state is a sure way to guarantee its national security, that is a misjudgment. For how long does it think it can endure heavy sanctions by international society? Scrapping its nuclear weapons is the only way to avoid the collapse of the regime.