Respond sternly, with restraintThe heat was turned up on Yeonpyeong Island when the military announced plans to conduct a live-fire artillery drill on a date between Saturday and Tuesday near the disputed sea border and frontline islands. The military has announced that it will strike back to defend the nation if North Korea responds to the drill with an artillery barrage like the one that killed four people on Yeonpyeong Island last month. Based on North Korea’s reaction, the drill could trigger a skirmish or full-scale confrontation.
Yeonpyeong residents are obviously nervous. A majority of the island fishing community left after the shelling, but about 110 residents remain. The military must ensure their safety before they start the drill.
The military should also consider the possibility of an attack near the demilitarized zone and should brace itself for all possibilities.
The drill on Yeonpyeong is legitimate. Artillery fire will be limited to our side of the Northern Limit Line, the maritime demarcation in the Yellow Sea. North Korea has no right to accuse South Korea of violating its territory with a provocative exercise. North Korea has been resisting the UN-endorsed maritime border since 1999. Countries have a right to conduct military exercises within their territory. In contrast, North Korea’s barrage on Yeonpeyong is an irrefutable violation of the Armistice Agreement, Treaty of Nonaggression, and UN Charter.
If North Korea makes another provocative move citing the exercises, a strong retaliation by our military is inevitable. The Korean military already has the endorsement from the United States, which has wartime operational control in combat operations, to defend itself. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said North Korea has been notified of the South Korean drill, which he said is “perfectly legitimate.” UN Command personnel will also monitor the drill, which underlines that the live-fire drill is part of a routine military exercise in accordance with the armistice.
No one wants the exercise to lead to a military confrontation. Professor Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korean affairs, said South Korea has become a rich and free society because of its stunning restraint in the face of North Korean provocations. He advises an immediate but limited military response to North Korean provocations. The military should respond immediately and sternly, but at the same time maintain its restraint so that the exchange of fire does not evolve into full-scale battle. We trust in the capabilities and judgment of our military.