Need for stern counteractionNorth Korea has again threatened the South. It’s almost as if the act of making threats has become part of its routine. The North warned that it will launch a “physical retaliation” against our ongoing military exercise in the Yellow Sea, which aims to prevent another tragedy like the Cheonan incident. This recent menace goes far beyond what’s acceptable. If the North really wants to play with fire, our military should launch an immediate response to its reckless behavior so that it can never even dream of making another military threat against us.
Our military exercise in the Yellow Sea is being conducted mostly in the waters near the Taean Peninsula. It is largely focused on artillery firing drills by ground forces based in Baengnyeong Island below the Northern Limitation Line. In other words, the main activity of the exercise is conducted in the waters to the south of the NLL. But North Korea has made a totally unreasonable argument by calling it “an act of direct, military aggression.” We should not give in to such absurd intimidation by the North. Our security posture will degenerate into a “paper tiger” if we repeat our earlier decision to suspend propaganda warfare through loud speakers along the DMZ for fear of an escalation into a regional war.
Our North Korea policy and national security posture are closely connected. We are now putting diplomatic and economic pressure on the North to punish it for the Cheonan incident and to seek substantial progress on the denuclearization of its nuclear weapons program. If we want those policies to succeed, our current actions should be accompanied by military deterrence strong enough to make the idea of provocation obsolete for the North.
Our joint military exercise with the United States in the East Sea last month was conducted for the same purpose. Of course, it may not be that easy for us to be perfectly prepared for a clandestine attack by the North. But when it happens, we should be able to make the North give up its military provocations by punishing it instantly and forcefully. The same principle applies to our pursuit of engagement policies with the North. North Korea even launched two military provocations in the Yellow Sea during the dovish Kim Dae-jung administration, but on both occasions it was successfully defeated by our navy’s strong and immediate response.
If the North repeats its earlier pattern, we, too, should repeat our actions. North Korea, which habitually resorts to threats and clashes, should take a good look at itself. If it constantly repeats such insane behavior even while it is unable to feed its own people without external aid, its behavior will only hasten its collapse.