Approve the pact

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Approve the pact

We are deeply concerned about the three opposition parties’ collusion to submit a motion to dismiss Defense Minister Han Min-koo for provisionally signing on Monday a pact to exchange military intelligence with Japan. Their denunciation of Han does not make sense.

Despite the lack of legitimacy of the government after the unprecedented influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, the opposition must understand that this is a pivotal security issue for the nation.

Even when South Korea undergoes unparalleled political chaos, the government must remain militarily prepared. But the opposition seeks to capitalize on the presidential scandal to change the four-star general-turned-minister. The move only deepens the feared leadership vacuum.

The opposition camp’s assertion that the government is rushing to conclude the military pact is also wrong. The treaty has been on the table since 1989, after our government first proposed it. It is totally misleading for the opposition to refer to the military arrangement as an equivalent of the shameful Korea-Japan Treaty of 1905. South Korea already struck military information exchange deals with 32 foreign countries, including Russia, and has proposed such a deal to 11 countries, including China. Nevertheless, the opposition vehemently opposes the pact with Japan. That’s a huge leap of logic based on groundless anti-Japan sentiment.

We need the pact more than ever. Even when North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles have emerged as a real threat to our security, our capability to monitor the stealth movement of North Korean submarines stops way short of meeting our need. Japan has 77 maritime patrol aircraft (South Korea only has 16), five intelligence-gathering satellites, 17 Awacs (airborne early-warning and control systems) and four ground-based radars with a 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) range. After the collapse of so-called human intelligence under the previous hard-line administration, some security analysts say Japan now has more accurate human intelligence on the North than us.

If the opposition refuses to take advantage of Japan’s intelligence, we will be unable to effectively cope with the North’s increasing nuclear and missile threats. South Korea still relies on Japan for intelligence on the North. As information is delivered to us via the United States, we cannot receive timely intelligence. If the opposition parties are responsible, they must stop hampering the government — or North Korea will catch us off guard.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 16, Page 30
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