Thaad consensus neededThe government’s decision to allow the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in a U.S. military base in South Korea stirs up controversy in South Korea. First of all, we need to share the recognition that the issue must be dealt with as a legitimate military option to protect our national security as a sovereign state. North Korea went so far as to warn that it will launch a retaliation once the location of the anti-missile system is determined. Pyongyang said that “the South Korean puppet regime” is advancing the day for its miserable collapse by introducing Uncle Sam’s missile system. In a timely reaction, President Park Geun-hye underscored the need to prevent massive casualties when the North’s nuclear missiles hit the nation.
The Thaad deployment is a very complicated issue involving diplomatic, political and ideological dimensions. Since there are many remaining questions about the deployment, the government needs to address them. A clash took place between ruling and opposition parties in a Monday meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee at the National Assembly after Chairman Shim Jae-kwon from the opposition Minjoo Party vehemently opposed the deployment. Some lawmakers, including Shim, base their opposition on the argument that the system is aimed at defending U.S. Forces in South Korea, not the Korean people, and attacking China instead of defending South Korea. The opponents also expressed concerns about possible retaliation by China in its trade with South Korea.
Ruling Saenuri Party legislators attacked the chairman for jumping to a conclusion without listening to the government’s explanations. A skirmish followed in a meeting of the National Defense Committee too. Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the opposition, raised the issue of the government making the decision secretly without the knowledge of the legislature and the public.
It is not desirable for a political heavyweight like Woo to attack a decision reached by the National Security Council after a 4-month negotiation with the U.S. . Nevertheless, the government must not evade its responsibility to persuade the public of the necessity for the system. Even Saenui Party floor leader Chung Jin-suk expressed suspicions about the lead-up to the decision along with criticism from Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, a Park loyalist, who said the government played a strategic card too impatiently.
A lot more discussions need to be made in political circles to build a national consensus on the issue.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 12, Page 30