A broken administration

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A broken administration

In the Park Geun-hye administration, nothing works properly. The economy is struggling, politics are crippled, society is chaotic and foreign relations are shaky. It is worse that the notoriously incompetent Lee Myung-bak administration failed to handle foreign policy, economy and inter-Korean relations. While the administration is incompetent in every way, security and diplomacy are especially worrisome. It is frightening that the administration is in charge of the safety and security of this country.

The Korea-U.S. foreign and defense ministerial meeting, or 2+2 meeting, held in Washington, D.C. last week, and the annual Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) were just more cases illustrating the incompetence of the foreign policy and security team of the Park administration.

As North Korea’s nuclear and missile capability advances, the objective of the meeting was to make specific and systematic U.S. defense policy on Korea so that it can be trusted. Before the meeting, foreign and defense ministries boasted they were working on something grand. But it turned out to be unsubstantial.

The foreign ministry bragged that they made a valuable accomplishment of agreeing to establish a high-level Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultative Group (EDSCG) that resembles the USA and NATO’s joint management of strategic nuclear weapons. Through the macroscopic strategic consultative mechanism participated by high-level defense and foreign officials of the two countries, the deterrence capacity the United States provides for Korea is enhanced.

If establishing a consultative group could clear the anxiety about the security policy of the United States, concerns should have been cleared long ago. In 2010, the Lee Myung-bak administration made a great fuss over establishing the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee as a permanent agency that guarantees execution of extended deterrence. The government also emphasized that it was the first time the United States made a permanent consultative group with an ally since NATO regarding extended deterrence.

The defense ministry has also practically misled the people by claiming that Korea and the United States would soon agree on constant rotation deployment of American strategic weapons in the Korean peninsula. Before the SCM, the defense ministry gave a media briefing that extended deterrence was guaranteed by constantly deploying American strategic assets, such as strategic bombers, strategic nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, by rotation in the airspace over the Korean Peninsula or nearby waters. The media reported the story to meet deadline. But the joint statement of the defense ministers of the two countries released after the meeting doesn’t mention constant rotation deployment at all. When the United States has no intention, Seoul had wishful thinking and brought humiliation to itself.

An American source with knowledge of both Korean and U.S. situations says that Korean diplomats and military officials don’t know about the United States at all, and the latest fuss was a comedy that illustrates the level of the Korean foreign and security team. It is just inconceivable to constantly deploy strategic assets of the United States in or around Korea if you look at the global strategy of the United States. Why would the United States make such a foolish move to tie one ankle in the Korean Peninsula when it has to deal with the world? Moreover, when the United States is already having friction with China over deployment of Thaad, a defense missile system, in Korea, constantly deploying offense strategic weapons near the Korean Peninsula would be like bringing Russian nuclear missiles to Cuba, he said. The Korean foreign and defense ministries had such an absurd idea that is impossible if one has minimum understanding of America’s global strategy.

On the unofficial talk in Kuala Lumpur between North Korean foreign officials and former US officials who handled North Korean nuclear affairs last week, Korean foreign ministry undermined it as a “meaningless meeting.” They are 120 percent faithful to the directive of President Park that “talking to North Korea is waste of time,” and they have forgotten what diplomacy is about. National defense only looking at the ally is not a defense, and diplomacy without talk is not diplomacy.

In Korea’s geopolitical situation, there are no more important professions than diplomats and soldiers. When the most capable elites with a solid view of the country and sense of vocation are successful in their careers, the country can be defended. But in the foreign and defense ministries of the Republic of Korea, opportunists who are good at pleasing the boss and avoiding responsibility get promoted and are more successful than true talents. Just as in any other fields, the long-standing evil of accumulated incompetency and irresponsibility is too serious. This is the real crisis, even graver than the North Korean nuclear threat.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 25, Page 31

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Bae Myung-bok
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