Standing firm against provocations

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Standing firm against provocations

Today marks the third anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Cheonan warship along the tense maritime border in the Yellow Sea. Forty-six sailors on board the naval corvette lost their lives due to North Korea’s cloak-and-dagger torpedo attack in the cold waters. We still feel the pain, anger and frustration all of the soldiers must have gone through in their desperate struggle for life in the dark sea.

The warship, broken into two pieces and salvaged from the ocean floor after painstaking efforts, stands on the yard of the Second Naval Fleet headquarters in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi. The surreal scene still breaks our hearts, even after three years. At the time, we pledged over and over that we would never allow such a tragedy to occur on our territory again.

Now, we raise the unavoidable question: Have we faithfully kept that promise? It is true that the military has notably beefed up our defenses around the five islands, including sonar installations under the sea to detect furtive penetrations into our waters by North Korean submersibles. Regrettably, however, military experts indicate that the reinforced security measures still fall short of averting treacherous infiltrations and surprise attacks from the North.

After three years, North Korea is ratcheting up its blackmail of South Korea, the United States and Japan with increasing threats that it will use nuclear weapons after its third nuclear test and a series of long-range missile launches. The North is also under strong suspicion of being behind the latest cyberattack against three major television networks and banks in the South, which poses a bigger security threat than three years ago. It is time for the government to come up with measures to effectively counter the threat.

The recent agreement between Seoul and Washington on an operation plan to jointly deal with localized aggression from the North carries great significance, as it stipulated that U.S. forces are to immediately be called in to retaliate against such an attack in case Pyongyang embarks on a large-scale provocation. That’s seen as one of the best defense mechanisms and ways of making up for our weak points.

However, we cannot settle for a contingency plan. The nation must strongly resolve to counterattack by incessantly reminding ourselves of the nightmare three years ago. The new government should find the best way to neutralize the North’s threats. The military, in particular, must prove itself so that Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin keeps his public vow to return fire ten times harder.

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