Confidence is key
The schism between the Blue House and the ruling Saenuri Party leadership over whether to make public the debate on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, an anti-ballistic missile shield designed to shoot down the enemy’s incoming missiles closer to the point of origin than we can currently do, rings alarm bells. The Blue House said nothing has been decided since there was no request from the United States on the Thaad issue, which looks like a preemptive strike against the Saenuri leadership’s vow to put the thorny issue on the table at an internal policy forum next week and at a tripartite meeting among the ruling party, the Blue House and the government later this month.
The Blue House believes that politicization of the issue only narrows our diplomatic leverage between the traditional Korea-U.S. alliance and Korea’s strategic partnership with China. Discord is also felt inside the ruling party, as seen in pro-Park Geun-hye lawmakers’ negative attitudes toward public discussion of the issue in sharp contrast to arguments by floor leader Yoo Seong-min and Policy Committee Chairman Won Yoo-chul that our Army decide to introduce the American system.
Such a disagreement between the ruling party and the Blue House is regrettable. The Blue House is of the position that airing the issue in public will only deepen disagreements. Thaad is a weapons system that the U.S. forces want in Korea to cope with North Korea’s missile threats. Deployment on the Korean Peninsula requires consultations between Seoul and Washington. Beijing and Moscow oppose the deployment because the radar that detects the movements of ballistic missiles can look into their countries as well.
Internal discrepancies could cause huge diplomatic risks. The decision on Thaad should be based on our security and national interests. We remember the immense damage in trust between Seoul and Washington caused by the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration’s uncoordinated campaign to readjust the Korea-U.S. alliance.
Our Ministry of National Defense’ reaction is disappointing. Minister Han Min-koo’s remarks at the National Assembly that strategic ambiguity is needed gave the impression that our government is zigzagging on the issue. If the U.S. government requests the deployment, the government must convince the public about its decision-making process and the need for the Thaad system to deal with the North’s nuclear threats. When it comes to security, the government must act confidently.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 12, Page 34