Harmel Doctrine is the answerThe deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system to Korea has become an irreversible decision.
Therefore, the people, the National Assembly and residents of Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, must focus their discussions on conducting a microscopic analysis into Thaad’s effectiveness and a thorough review on the postmortem level on the legitimacy in the decision-making process. The sharp confrontations between the supporters and protesters — far from objective facts — only stress the nation.
Let me examine the process of the deployment decision to begin with. Whenever the United States mentioned a possible deployment, the government repeatedly lied to the people that there was no discussion on the Thaad deployment. It was June 3, 2014 when U.S. Forces Korea Commander Curtis Scaparrotti first mentioned the possible deployment. It was after the officials of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and Air Force visited Lockheed Martin — the builder of the Thaad antimissile system — in April 2013 and were secretly briefed. The Park Geun-hye administration announced the deployment decision in July 2016.
The lead-up to the deployment decision shows that the government deceived the people for more than two years. Therefore, what the National Assembly has to do is to hold the government accountable for having skipped the pivotal discussions with the people and the legislature when deciding to allow the Thaad deployment in Korea. The government explained that it did not make the process public to maintain confidentiality, but what part of the deployment constitutes a military secret?
The effectiveness of the Thaad system is the essence of the controversy. The government explained that operating a multilayered interception system against incoming North Korean missiles is more desirable than having just one chance to counter them with PAC-2 or PAC-3 at the terminal low-altitude phase. But a fatal weakness of the missile defense system is that the Seoul metropolitan area is outside the range of the Thaad interception system. That goes directly against the government’s logic that Thaad is deployed because PAC-2 and PAC-3 are not enough to stop the North’s missiles. That is why the speculations grew that the Thaad is aimed at protecting local U.S. military bases.
The Ministry of National Defense explained that Seoul will be safeguarded by the PAC-3 missiles — to be introduced in 2017 or 2018 — but what percentage of the Seoul population could be protected when the North’s more than 1,000 long-range artilleries across the border begin to attack the capital?
There is no need to reiterate the obvious fact that the Thaad deployment will escalate tensions between South Korea and China and lead to a new Cold War structure in Northeast Asia between a South Korea-United States-Japan alliance and a North Korea-China-Russia alliance, allowing the North to escape from the international isolation.
Beijing’s argument that it cannot allow the X-band radar of a Thaad battery to spy on its missile bases is unjust and also exaggerated. China, too, operates a strong radar network that covers not only the Korean Peninsula but also U.S. bases in Japan. Yet it is hard to flatly dismiss China’s suspicion that the Thaad deployment will become a part of the Missile Defense system jointly built by the United States and Japan. Why is that?
The 21st-century military strategy of the United States for Europe, Middle East and East Asia is being restructured to integrate — and operate — troops of its allies and friendly countries based on Global Intelligence Grid (GIG), a brainchild of information technology and computers. The concept is known as “netcentric operations.” The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) — a security mission in Afghanistan led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and includes 90,000 troops from 48 countries — is a classic example.
In the new system, each country’s military gets integrated into a cyber-cooperation system through the interface of ISAF, while maintaining its own military intelligence.
The government also must consider that if the Thaad 2.0 system is developed, as rumors go, the Thaad system to be deployed in a U.S. military base here next year will become outmoded. But more important is this: As Thaad 2.0 is a part of the GIG, it will be unavoidably incorporated into the broader cyber-cooperation system led by Uncle Sam, including the MD system. China, currently concentrating on developing its own cyber weaponry and systems, is protesting the Thaad deployment, because of that possible future.
North Korea continues its missile tests, frantically running on the incompatible path of an economically poor country with a strong military. What will be our choice? The Harmel Doctrine of the NATO has the answer.
At a NATO foreign ministerial meeting in 1967, Belgium Foreign Minister Pierre Harmel proposed a reinforced deterrence of the NATO troops while pursuing détente with Warsaw Pact countries at the same time. The proposal was adopted as the “Harmel Doctrine” in the meeting. The Harmel Doctrine evolved to the 1975 Helsinki process and eventually the European integration.
It is dangerous to jump to the conclusion — merely based on our standards — that North Korea will never start a war though it is fond of playing with fire. Hardline confrontation between the two Koreas may trigger an accidental clash. Under such volatile circumstances, managing the national division for peace by benchmarking the Harmel Doctrine is a must.
In a second Korean War — in which the North will fire nuclear missiles while the allied troops will be controlled remotely from somewhere in Nevada — everyone will be the loser. “No thank you” to the call for Korea to become a puppet of the U.S. military-industrial complex in search of a test field for its new cutting-edge weapon.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 22, Page 35
*The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?