A dangerous perceptionOn Wednesday, a senior Blue House official asked if South Korea needed to immediately deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield, saying North Korea has been conducting nuclear and missile tests since long ago. We are absolutely dumbfounded by the remarks. His statement came as the presidential office tried to delay Thaad deployment for a year or two after the Ministry of National Defense misreported to President Moon Jae-in the number of Thaad launchers in the country.
If the top official’s remarks are true, the new administration does not regard the North’s nuclear and missile provocations as an immediate threat. The government still seems to believe it is not too late if Thaad goes through another environmental inspection before deployment.
The senior official’s perception was proven totally wrong. North Korea on Thursday fired several short-range anti-ship cruise missiles with a maximum range of 200 kilometers (124 miles), the fourth missile launch since President Moon took office a month ago. Aimed at attacking South Korean and U.S. naval vessels from its shores, the missile has a shooting range twice as long as existing missiles.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests pose a real threat to our security. Military analysts anticipate Pyongyang will be able to install about 10 nuclear warheads on its missiles within the year by using its supply of more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of plutonium. If it deploys those weapons in real battles, it can attack South Korea and Japan at the same time. What will our government do if that nightmarish scenario takes place? The Blue House must be able to answer two questions.
First, are such lax perceptions shared by the president and his aides at the Blue House? If so, we urge them to reassess the threat based on security evaluations by South Korean and American intelligence authorities. Then they should let the public know the results.
Second, the government must reconsider the idea of postponing Thaad deployment if it really perceives the nuclear and missile threats as an urgent issue. We urge the administration to put top priority on our security.
During the campaign, a presidential candidate can oppose Thaad deployment, but once he takes power, he can step back from his campaign promise. The people will not criticize him. The president must remember that if our security is broken, there will be no politics or economy left.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 9, Page 34