Not in Beijing’s pocketAfter the Chuseok holidays, Koreans increasingly feel the need to brace for another provocation by North Korea following its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9. The pros and cons of the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system are no longer being debated.
Deployment seems unavoidable. This remarkable turnaround is based on the belief that our national security is the most important thing for Koreans — not pressure from the United States or blowback from Beijing.
We welcome the dramatic switch in the public’s mood. If we remained sharply divided before a real external threat, it only makes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un happy. In the eyes of the Americans and Chinese, we would look ridiculous.
Particularly noteworthy is the change in position by the People’s Party’s. Ahn Cheol-soo, former head of the opposition party, said that if China refuses to impose sanctions on the North, we can justify the deployment. Despite some logical detours and strings attached, his remarks translate into an admission of the realistic need for the deployment as well as a reflection of the belief by the public that Thaad is for our self defense. The deployment is unavoidable due to China’s reluctance to truly levy sanctions on the North.
South Korea’s security cannot be protected by a Thaad battery alone now that North Korea is capable of firing ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads from submarines wherever it wants. We must find effective ways to counter the North’s threats in a bipartisan manner.
It is fortunate that foreign ministers from Seoul, Washington and Tokyo on Monday issued a joint statement in a tripartite meeting at the United Nations to stop the North’s nuclear and missile programs. But the loopholes in China’s sanctions remain. According to a study conducted by Korean and American institutes and published by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, 562 companies, individuals and vessels in China have gotten around Beijing’s sanctions to trade with North Korea over the past five years. In times like this, we must speak with one voice. Seoul must not allow Beijing to believe it has South Korea in its pocket.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 20, Page 30