Vigilance in face of tensions

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Vigilance in face of tensions

North Korea is escalating its rhetorical attacks against South Korea. It warned that it would confiscate properties owned and run by South Korean companies and the government at the resort complex at Mount Kumgang.

Citing the anti-North air balloons sent up by North Korean defectors, Pyongyang threatened to end inter-Korean agreements on travel in Kaesong and Kumgang, suggesting the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex altogether.

In response to the U.S. announcement on a new strategy in its Nuclear Posture Review, Pyongyang declared it would accelerate development of uranium-based nuclear weapons.

This campaign of renewed hostility heightens inter-Korean tensions as South Korea studies the possible role North Korea played in the mysterious sinking of a naval ship in waters near the sea border.

There is still no real evidence pointing to North Korea’s orchestration of the Cheonan tragedy. But the defense minister’s comment on the high probability of a torpedo attack and the balance of military analysis and testimony from surviving crew all point north. Nothing but a military attack can explain the instant destruction and sinking of a 1,200-ton corvette. And no country but North Korea would be bold enough to carry out such an action. North Korea remains silent on the Cheonan crisis while mobilizing all sorts of threats to provoke South Korea. It turned rancorous after months of conciliatory gestures since summer of last year failed to work.

Its rhetorical attacks may also be a way to pre-empt a potential South Korean military response after a full-fledged investigation confirms North Korea’s involvement in the Cheonan disaster. We should be on full alert for the North’s next provocations with determination.

But first, the government needs to find stronger footing. It must be thorough with its investigation into the sinking so that there will be no internal divisions. The public should also remain patient until the civilian-military probe reaches a conclusion on the exact cause of the accident. Most of all, the government and the military must build a road map of contingency plans against the North for when it is proven to be the culprit. A credible and reasonable plan will draw united support from the public and cooperation from the international community.

The military disappointed us with its poor risk management during the first few days following the tragic incident. However, the military is our last resort in a crisis. If our armed forces are shaken, our options in addressing a crisis grow very limited. There must be no loopholes in defense. The military must be fully equipped to act decisively in any circumstance.
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