Reinforce intelligence on the North

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Reinforce intelligence on the North

It is unsettling that we had to turn the front-line loudspeakers back on after a 136-day hiatus. Still, we support the government’s decision to renew propaganda broadcasts as a punitive response to North Korea’s self-proclaimed testing of a hydrogen bomb, which both Seoul and the international community deem a fourth nuclear test.

It clearly violated the landmark Aug. 25 inter-Korean agreement pledging mutual restraint in “irregular activities” in return for unplugging the loudspeakers, which were turned on in August after two South Korean soldiers were maimed by North Korean land mines. But we wonder how effective the broadcasts criticizing the Pyongyang regime can be in taming and containing the recalcitrant regime’s provocative campaigns. In fact, they are no more than psychological warfare and solve no fundamental problems.

North Korea’s response is predictable. It could take military action and shoot down the speakers. If it does this, our military has vowed to retaliate fiercely. The Korean Peninsula could shift back into a quasi state of war due to the likelihood of skirmishes on the front line.

But what makes us jittery is the questionable reliability of our intelligence services when it comes to preparing for action against the North’s next move. Our military authorities assure us of their deterrence capabilities, but we were only aware of planted land mines when our soldiers stepped on them. We could again end up fumbling in response to an attack from the North.

How can we seriously be confident in our ability to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions with such poor readiness? Despite the excuses our military and spy agency intelligence officials have been making, it appears that Washington and Tokyo had detected suspicious moves from North Korea ahead of the latest nuclear test. North Korea restricted the movements of residents near the nuclear complex three days before the test, but our intelligence officials failed to connect that information with the possibility of an underground bomb test.

The vice ministers of Seoul, Tokyo and Washington on Friday pledged to share intelligence, but we cannot go on pleading for new information from the United States and Japan. We cannot be ready for new provocations and threats from North Korea unless we are well informed of its activities. South Korea must reinforce its intelligence on North Korea.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 9, Page 30

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