[Letter to the editor]Preparedness is needed for peaceAs a recent editorial read, “President Roh Moo-hyun has intentionally underrated the threat posed by North Korea. The president has said repeatedly that the military balance on the Korean Peninsula has not been upset and that North Korea’s test of its missiles and nuclear devices were not aimed at us.”
Enemy fire killed five South Korean sailors within hours of the time of the kickoff in the third-place match between South Korea and Turkey in the World Cup 2002. Shortly thereafter (Dec. 19, 2002), South Koreans chose Roh Moo-hyun to be their next president. I was teaching then at Honam University in Gwangju; in that city, Mr. Roh received 715,182 votes to his opponent’s 26,869 votes.
And on the eve of his election, Mr. Roh clearly said in the event of a war between North Korea and the United States, South Korea might stay neutral.
As Park Yong-ok pointed out on the editorial page of the JoongAng Daily some time back: “Security issues would normally be easy to arrange, but mutual distrust between Korea and the United States complicates the issue.” Mr. Park’s characterization of a remark by General Burwell Baxter Bell at a press conference was inaccurate, but reflected a fairly common opinion held today in Seoul that the transfer of wartime control is more important to the United States than the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
American intervention in the middle of an argument that an ally is having with itself at this point could only be counterproductive.
Without elevating living standards by direct payments to individuals, as was done in the case of the politically divided Germany, the two Koreas will remain perpetual opponents, since individual Koreans residing above the 38th Parallel would not be able to relocate south with the paltry sums available to them.
On Feb. 20, 2002, at the Dorasan Railroad Station, U.S. President George Bush could have thanked North Korea’s Kim Jong-il for that paramount leader’s denunciation of the 9/11/01 terrorists: “Americans,” the president could have said, “are very grateful for the tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support on the part of the North Korean people and their Dear Leader.”
That would have had the potential to bring the people on both sides of the politically divided peninsula closer together.
Today, North Korea is fortunate in that the Chinese communist cadre, from President Hu Jintao on down, realize that the alternative to aiding its close neighbor is an intensification in the flow of economic refugees to China. Still, as noted in Crisis on the Korean Peninsula by Mike Mochizuki and Michael O’Hanlon: “North Korea is a failing, hypermilitarized, and dangerous state, with few current prospects for reform or recovery, and thus a high propensity to engage in further provocative behavior as a means of gaining economic assistance from the international community.”
True, as stated by the JoongAng Daily, North Korea is not the only country that poses a threat to Korea.
A very recent People’s Republic of China White Paper says that China’s defense expenditure in 2004 and 2005 was 220 billion yuan ― around $27.5 billion ― and 248 billion yuan ― around $30 billion ― with growth rates of 15 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. Its defense budget for 2006 was 283.83 billion yuan ― around $35 billion ― the White Paper said. In fact, China spends $90 billion a year for military forces.
China has 2.3 million people under arms. China has nuclear weapons, long-range bombers and is building a blue-water navy. Preparedness is indeed the only way to peace.
Richard Thompson, Honolulu
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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