[Letters] A multinational force for Northeast Asia

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[Letters] A multinational force for Northeast Asia

Japan, Korea’s neighbor, is going through an unprecedented catastrophe as an earthquake and tsunami that struck the country left its nuclear power plants destroyed. The Korean Peninsula is considered relatively safe from earthquakes that originate from the northeastern part of Japan as the islands of Japan serve as a buffer.

Nevertheless, Korea can no longer be considered an exception form natural disasters in the future. If an earthquake occurs in the waters near the Korean Peninsula or Mount Baekdu erupts, the country is not safe. Not only from the consequent tsunami and fallout but also from the release of radioactivity from the nuclear power plants in the South and the nuclear facilities in North Korea.

The Great Sichuan Earthquake of 2008, which resulted in nearly 100,000 people dead or missing, and the latest earthquake in Japan teach us a lesson that such a catastrophe may strike Korea anytime and we should collaborate with other countries to be better prepared. In order to respond to natural disasters in the Northeast Asian region, we need to consult with neighboring countries to organize multinational military forces. The armed forces of each country already have emergency response functions and operation protocols, so the military is considered the most suitable to perform rescue missions.

In addition to the mutual economic dependence among Korea, China and Japan, the three countries have student and tourist exchanges. Therefore, we need to have a mutual sense of threat and need to build an emergency response system to minimize damage and loss. To establish and operate multinational response forces, a command headquarters needs to be installed and an emergency response center, a simulation center and emergency forces should be operated under that command.

An emergency response center should be equipped with an infrastructure to spot signs of disaster in the early stages and share the information among nations to start an early alert. At the simulation center, various national and international threat scenarios that can be anticipated should be developed so that the forces from each country dispatched to the headquarters can learn the protocols and train in case of the emergency. Lastly, in case of the emergency, an immediate response team can be designated to be sent for the rescue mission first. In case of Korea, we can use the 3,000 strong Peace Keeping Operation (PKO) reserve forces. The U.S. forces stationed in Korea and Japan possess advanced early alert capabilities and strategic logistics assets and their participation may greatly contribute to the reinforcement of friendly security cooperation among the countries in the region.

The design of multilateral security cooperation in the Northeast Asia has already been established as the leaders of Korea, China and Japan have met in three summit meetings and agreed on a mutual response to the threats such as natural disaster. When the three state heads met at Jeju Island last year, they agreed to install an executive office in Korea this year. The office will be able to serve as a meaningful channel in establishing an emergency rescue operation system.

Korea has suffered relatively small damage from natural disasters but in order to prepare for a sudden change in North Korea, Seoul may want to propose an establishment of a multinational response force for the Northeast Asian region at the fourth Korea-China-Japan summit meeting to be held in Japan in May.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Chung Kyung-young,
a professor of national security studies at the Catholic University of Korea
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