Secure the barn door

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Secure the barn door

North Korea has been attacking our global positioning systems for four consecutive days since last Thursday. Though no meaningful damage has been reported, such an action could trigger a serious disaster at any time — if passenger aircraft or fishing boats collide, say, in the air or at sea. They could even cross the border unwittingly due to potential malfunctioning of their GPS. As the GPS disturbance is an indiscriminate assault against civilian planes and ships, that constitutes a terrorist act in clear violation of international law.

Given the North’s sensitive reactions to the ongoing joint Korea-U.S. military drill and recent UN sanctions, the GPS attack reflects strong antipathy to the mounting pressure from the international community. But it is North Korea that caused the tough sanctions and unprecedentedly large military exercises. International society took proper action in response to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test, its alleged miniaturization of nuclear warheads and acquisition of atmospheric re-entry technology, and its endless firing of multiple rocker launchers.

The North’s provocations cannot affect the international community’s sanctions. Pyongyang’s reaction only exacerbates its dire economic condition. It must give up its doomed nuclear armaments and demonstrate a sincere will to have dialogue. South Korea and other countries no doubt will welcome it if North Korea takes such a path.

But our military authorities’ reaction to the North’s GPS attacks is very disappointing. Despite the North’s ever-expanding scope of disturbances, the top brass merely reiterates that our military equipment is not affected thanks to its anti-jamming capability even after a number of our fishing boats had to return to port due to malfunctioning GPS. How would the government cope with the possibility of the North extending GPS attacks to our electricity grids, financial and mobile communication networks?

The Defense Ministry has vowed to retaliate if grave damage is inflicted. That’s akin to fixing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Does the ministry plan to wait until the North’s GPS disturbance has caused colossal damage? The government must obtain technologies to neutralize — and retaliate against — the North’s new electronic warfare and reassure our citizens of their safety.

Yet our politicians are bent on concocting ways to win the April 13 general election instead of urging our military to find effective ways to prevent a disaster. That’s a critical dereliction of their duties. Voters will soon determine their fate.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 4, Page 30
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