Another muted responseHarsh criticism is being directed toward our military for its response to North Korea’s latest military provocation in the Yellow Sea. On Monday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) ignored reports that North Korea was firing artillery shells off the western coast near the Northern Limit Line (NLL). The following day, however, the JCS reversed its stance and acknowledged that some of the shells had actually landed in our territorial waters.
Some pundits asked why the military didn’t respond differently after having vowed in January to launch an immediate counterattack if North Korean shells crossed into the NLL. There’s also plenty of suspicion that the JCS might have denied the North’s violation because it couldn’t keep the promise made in January. Other pundits even argued that our military should have responded directly to North Korea’s provocation.
We believe that the South Korean military offered up a muted response once again to North Korea’s actions, just like it did in March when the Cheonan naval ship was attacked.
The excessive secrecy on the part of the military since the Cheonan incident is creating adverse effects and could have lasting repercussions.
The key issue is whether or not our military reacted appropriately to the artillery attack. Perhaps a military response would have been unwise, as it would only raise tensions in the region. Since the sinking of our warship, North Korea has likely been carefully controlling its level of provocation.
But our military’s reaction to the artillery issue fell short of our expectations. Pyongyang had already vowed to launch a “physical retaliation” against our drills in the Yellow Sea, so our military should have anticipated a provocation like this.
That being the case, it had no reason to deny the initial reports about the artillery, which came from sentries in the area. At the very least, military officials could have said that they were following up on the reports or that a counterattack wasn’t warranted because there was no damage. Instead, they simply pretended it didn’t happen. If they had been up front about it, the North’s actions would have been somewhat comical, as they essentially wasted artillery shells killing fish.
Our military has fostered suspicion and distrust by trying to conceal what eventually would have amounted to a joke.
The administration cannot avoid its responsibility for yet another mistake, but the government gives us the impression that all the blame lies with the military. In the end, maintaining national security is the government’s job.