Don’t cry wolf again
The Ministry of National Defense is making a habit of crying wolf. The ministry discreetly made a trilateral agreement with the United States and Japan to share military information on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, and is now under fire for lying about the timing of the signing.
A senior ministry official on Dec. 26 said the three countries had signed the memorandum of understanding and that it would go into effect Dec. 29. But it was discovered that Seoul signed a pact with Washington on Dec. 23 and another with Tokyo three days later. Defense Minister Han Min-koo admitted that the signing was completed when he was called to report to the National Assembly’s Defense Committee on Dec. 29. Even ruling party members grilled the minister for his poor handling of the sensitive security agreement.
Accurate and extensive intelligence on North Korea’s military capabilities is crucial for South Korea. Sharing information is helpful for Korea as long as there are conditions to limit Japan’s military influence. Regardless of necessity and good intentions, diplomatic and security pacts must follow appropriate procedures.
Under former President Lee Myung-bak, the government tried to pass a military information-sharing pact with Japan during a cabinet meeting in July 2012 but had to drop the plan due to backlash from the public. The Defense Ministry may have wanted to avoid making the same mistake by keeping the agreement secret until it took effect. But no agreement can be understood and supported by the public if it is made in secret.
The Defense Ministry has disappointed the public throughout the year with a series of disgraceful incidents and attempts to cover them up. It only admitted that one of its officers died from brutal beating by his senior officers after a human rights organization reported the affair. Parents these days don’t feel safe about sending their sons into the military. With such low confidence in the military, no advanced weapons can help the Army during times of contingency.
The government has been making and carrying out diplomatic and security policies without sufficiently assessing the public opinion. Diplomatic and security decisions must be transparent because they concern public safety. The government must clearly explain why it had to push ahead with a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan without consulting the National Assembly and even lying to the public.JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 30, Page 30