We must stand unitedPresident Lee Myung-bak spoke to the nation on the sinking of the Cheonan after it was found to be a deliberate military provocation by North Korea. The ministers of foreign affairs, defense and unification then described all possible follow-up options except military retaliation and closing the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex.
As President Lee said, we have tolerated North Korea’s provocations time after time because of our hope that we will be reunited one day. But “all this will change,” the president sternly declared. He warned that the country will invoke its right to defend itself if Pyongyang attempts further aggression.
He spoke of the principle of proactive deterrence. The paradigm in inter-Korean relations has changed. Relations may return to the long chill before the summit meeting between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in June 2000. But such a drastic turn is nevertheless necessary to stop ourselves from being manipulated by the North.
To make North Korea pay the price for sinking our warship, the government has begun to deny access to our sea lanes, including the Jeju Strait, to North Korean merchant ships. It also resumed psychological warfare for the first time in six years. A “Voice of Freedom” broadcast has already aired, and propaganda loudspeakers and billboards will be turned on near the border soon. All remaining trade will be stopped.
Our grievances will also be taken to the United Nations Security Council. We cannot know how North Korea will respond to our unprecedented actions, but we must be on full alert for any consequences. The government and military must seek public support, and the public and politicians alike must stand united.
The government should also act on the initiatives it has proposed. The military should make up for what it called “the biggest shame since the war” and reinvent itself, from its morale to its entire security posture and system. There must not be any “what ifs” in the South Korean military.
It is common sense that partisanship should not exist on security issues. Politicians too must display a united front. The ruling party, first of all, should not use the North Korean attack on the Cheonan as leverage in the elections.
For its part, the opposition should lay the blame where it belongs before criticizing their compatriots. It can wait until the Board of Audit and Inspection reports on the military’s responsibility in the Cheonan case before it acts.
If we engage in conflict among ourselves, we are giving North Korea a chance to dodge responsibility. A united voice from the South is what North Korea would fear the most.