Time for bipartisanship

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Time for bipartisanship

South Korean presidents have experienced countless military provocations from North Korea in the six decades since the 1950-53 Korean War. But no president has entered office under as dire of a security situation as Park Geun-hye. After declaring it will not give up its nuclear weapons program, the North is poised to conduct a third nuclear test. But one can hardly find a substantial solution. If Pyongyang succeeds in minimizing warheads and puts them onto its medium-range missiles, South Korea will be under a direct nuclear threat from the North.

In February 1998, Kim Dae-jung took a presidential oath amid an economic crisis. At the time, both ruling and opposition parties heartily demonstrated an unprecedented bipartisan cooperation to overcome it. Fifteen years after the crisis, our country faces a similar dilemma. If the ruling and opposition camps avoid a concerted action to cope with the threat, the North will only become emboldened. We welcome the contingency meeting today between lawmakers from both sides to effectively deal with the nuclear threat.

The bipartisanship urgently needs the opposition Democratic United Party’s cooperation. After a crushing defeat in the December presidential election, the DUP concluded that its image as a party with a weak sense of security contributed to the defeat. Then, the party leadership visited an air base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong and convened an emergency meeting at Yeonpyeong Island, the site of North Korea’s shelling in November 2010.

More important, however, is a fundamental change of attitude. The DUP has behaved undeserving of its status as the main opposition. It opposed a National Assembly resolution condemning the North’s sinking of our Cheonan warship, and for the North’s bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island, the leadership attributed it to the hawkish policies of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

There should not be an ideological divide on the issue of national security. After the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. , the opposition Democratic Party gave full support to the Republican administration. The North’s possession of nuclear weapons offers an unheard-of security risk. If the DUP takes a divisive posture, Pyongyang will try to take advantage of its nuclear power. If both parties display staunch bipartisanship, however, the North will be intimidated by the new unity.
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