Missile measuresUnited States Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made it clear that the U.S. will not try to shoot down the rocket that North Korea plans to launch. President Lee Myung-bak has also announced his opposition to a military response.
These comments represent a change from the previous positions stated by South Korea and the U.S. Earlier, they pointed out that the road the North is taking goes against United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which prohibits the North from engaging in ballistic missile activity.
It seems President Lee and Gates have reluctantly modified their stance, concluding that the last channels of communication with Pyongyang should not be completely closed even after its launch.
However, although the two countries have adopted a united front about the use of military means to stop the North Korean launch, the interests of South Korea and the U.S. are not necessarily the same.
Gates has dampened talk of a missile launch, saying the North Korean rocket is not a threat since it would not reach U.S. territory.
But how about South Korea? The security of the South depends totally on its alliance with the U.S. Seoul’s defense depends on how fast U.S. forces can be committed in the Korean Peninsula from bases in Japan, the Pacific regions and the U.S.
Since North Korea’s missiles could strike Hawaii, Guam or even Alaska, it seems they are intended to pre-emptively block the commitment of U.S. forces to the Korean Peninsula in the event of war.
North Korea’s missiles might not be a direct threat to the U.S., but they are to Seoul.
Clearly, the comments by Gates and President Lee reveal close cooperation between the two countries, but we can’t help harboring considerable concern about the Korea-U.S. alliance.
It is not enough to vaguely confirm the Korea-U.S. alliance. Instead, Seoul should talk about how to block hundreds of missiles that the North has targeted at the South.
It should discuss whether we can be 100 percent confident that the U.S. will not neglect the security of the South, and also look at what measures the two governments are taking against North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.
The South Korean government might be forced to accept that it has no choice but to participate in a missile defense program, which has been delayed because of budget problems.
We might also have to consider developing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, a move that so far has been unnecessary because of our alliance with the United States.