Absolute right to self-defenseTop South Korean and U.S. military officers agreed that the South Korean military can strike back with full force - whether on land, in the air or at sea - regardless of the rules of engagement should North Korea attempt more attacks.
The United States’ commitment to help South Korea defend itself is unquestioned, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a press conference with his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Han Min-koo, following a senior-level defense meeting in Seoul.
He said South Korea “has every right to protect its people and to carry out that responsibility. They also have the right to choose the method with which they respond.”
The two military officials also agreed to revamp their deterrence tactics, as North Korea could carry out any manner of military provocations in the future. Their heightened state of readiness is based on the assessment that the South Korean military was incompetent in its response to the North Korean attack of the Cheonan naval ship and Yeonpyeong Island.
Meanwhile, Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin has reiterated that the military will retaliate against any future North Korean provocation because the right to self-defense overrides the rules of engagement and even the Armistice Agreement. Thus, the military will not have to restrain itself by waiting for the go-ahead to act aggressively and defiantly against North Korean provocations.
The attacks on Cheonan and Yeonpyeong differ from past North Korean provocations. Unlike past skirmishes, the latest attacks were prepared in detail and carried out on a large scale. They were hardly coincidental.
North Korea is going through a tumultuous period amidst muffled public complaints that are the result of prolonged economic hardship. At the same time, an ailing Kim Jong-il prepares for a shaky power transition to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un. The North’s military-first policy over the last decade has emboldened the military and raises the risk that there will be more bold provocations in the future. It can hardly contain itself as it flaunts its nuclear capacity at every opportunity.
Our military should fortify itself based on our strong alliance with the United States to dampen any ideas North Korea may have about future provocations. We must manifest a strong willingness to fight while honing our combat capacities. That is the right to self-defense against provocations. The military, government and the public should be defiant and ready.