Stop feigning ignoranceWhen North Korea launched the long-range Kwangmyongsong-4 rocket last month, South Korean Defense Ministry correspondents were sullen and complained to ministry officials. While the Japanese media reported the movements at the West Sea satellite launch site in North Korea in real time, the South Korean military authorities feigned ignorance.
The Japanese media reported that North Korea would launch a missile within days, Japan’s Aegis was deployed to detect missiles, and fuel was being injected into the missile. But when asked to confirm, Korean authorities avoided answering.
A month has passed, and the North Korean military threat remains. It revealed an object claimed to be a nuclear warhead, and fired missiles and long-range artillery. Fortunately, what North Korea does not disclose voluntarily is kindly delivered through foreign media. On March 22, the Washington Free Beacon reported that a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, was tested. On March 11, CNN reported a North Korean submarine was missing.
Meanwhile, South Korean intelligence authorities remain quiet. Without media reports from the United States and Japan, or revelations from North Korea, South Korean citizens are in the dark. The authorities argue that if South Korea opens up, the United States may be reluctant to provide intelligence.
It means that South Korea is largely dependent on the United States for North Korean intelligence. The South Korean military does not have high-performance reconnaissance planes or military satellites. Watching over North Korea from the skies falls to the United States. Therefore, it is understandable that South Korean authorities are sensitive about how the United States feels. Moreover, the commander-in-chief especially emphasized the sense of security for intelligence last year.
There had been “prices” that we had to pay when military information shared by the United States was leaked on the South Korean side. But sometimes, South Korea is ahead of the United States in human intelligence, such as with eavesdropping and wiretapping. It is regrettable that the South Korean government failed to utilize them properly and had to remain silent when other countries secured their interests through media play.
The impacts of information are maximized when used with proper timing. Releasing North Korean information in particular can be a warning that we already know and are prepared. A thorough information utilization strategy is necessary to deter provocation and war. The South Korean military will soon have a high-altitude reconnaissance plane called Global Hawk and a military satellite. Instead of the “feigning ignorance” strategy, the authorities should have new strategies to make the most of intelligence for the national interest.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 28, Page 29
*The author is a political and international news writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
BY JEONG YONG-SOO