We must have missile defenseSouth Korea and the United States agreed to reinforce their “comprehensive joint defense posture” against North Korea’s increasing nuclear weapons and missile threats at a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers and defense ministers in Washington on Thursday.
The two allies plan to construct a Korean-style missile defense system together, extend the firing range of our ballistic missiles and augment our capability to counterattack the North after detecting any sign of a missile attack. Given Pyongyang’s escalation of threats against its enemies ? particularly buoyed by its “nuclear power status,” we welcome the two allies’ commitment to our defense capability.
Needless to say, the North’s unremitting nuclear and missile tests posed a substantial threat to our security. If the North attacks the South with ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads, we have no defense capability except the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Washington asked Seoul to participate in its missile defense system, but our government has been reluctant to join it for fear of provoking China and the massive costs involved.
North Korea’s ballistic missile capability has noticeably strengthened these days, not to mention as many as 1,000 short- and intermediate-range missiles which can strike the entire country of South Korea. The North has also deployed quite a number of intermediate- and long-distance missiles which can hit all of Japan, U.S. military bases in the Pacific and even the U.S. mainland. Against this backdrop, the Washington meeting aimed at beefing up our ability to prepare for the North’s mounting threats carries great significance.
The government discussed with the U.S. ways to extend our ballistic missiles’ firing range so that they can strike the entire region of North Korea. Leon Panetta, U.S. secretary of defense, said both sides have made considerable progress on the issue.
Though the Korea-U.S. agreement may fuel a fierce arms race between the South and North, it is an inevitable conclusion as long as our security is endangered by Pyongyang’s adherence to weapons of mass destruction. That’s why we should have the capability to deter the North’s nuclear attacks. However, we should be careful not to let a full-fledged arms race take the center stage in our North Korea policies. The government must encourage Pyongyang to take a reform path while strengthening our defense capability at the same time.