Rethinking securityKwon Yule-jung, chief director of the Daejeon National Cemetery, visits the tombs of fallen soldiers several times every day. He often stands in front of the tombstone of chief petty officer Moon Young-guk in the cemetery for the 46 soldiers who perished in the Cheonan. He had chosen a career as a naval noncommissioned officer after his mother passed away, and a year after he joined the navy, he was killed in sinking of the Cheonan on March 26, 2010. He has no relatives or family. “I consider him as my own son and cherish him. We are living in peace, thanks to those who are buried here. Politicians and other visitors should think about their sacrifice one more time.”
On June 19, 2002, North Korea’s sudden attack in Northern Limit Line in the West Sea resulted in deaths of six South Korean soldiers, including Lt. Cmdr. Yoon Young-ha. On the day that they perished on the Chamsuri-class vessel, Koreans were celebrating the advancement to the World Cup third-place match. It was the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong after a similar confrontation on June 15, 1999.
As the families of the victims of the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong cherished their loved ones at the 15th anniversary memorial ceremony, President Moon Jae-in began his U.S. visit for Korea-US summit by dedicating flowers to the Chosin Few Battle Monument in Quantico, Virginia. President Moon expressed deep gratitude to the veterans, he said that without the brave soldiers of the Chosin battle, there wouldn’t be a Hungnam evacuation, and he wouldn’t be here today. President Moon showed his diplomatic direction with the Chosin battle as discords grow over the Thaad deployment and policy on North Korean nuclear threat.
The Chosin Reservoir Battle started on November 27, 1950, and it was the most intense battle in the Korean War, which historian Samuel Marshal called “the most devastating small-scale war in the 20th century.” The U.S. 1st Marine Division was surrounded by seven divisions of Chinese forces and fought desperately for two weeks in the severe cold of -40 degrees Celsius. The battle left over 5,000 dead. Thanks to the Chosin Reservoir Battle, the S.S. Meredith Victory could evacuate 14,000 refugees from the port of Hungnam. Among the refugees were President Moon’s parents.
Two days before President Moon’s U.S. Visit, ruling Minjoo Party chair Chu Mi-ae mentioned a war. “When political implication of Thaad grows and lead to discords with the United States and China and misunderstanding between South and North Koreas, the damages will lead to a war.”
When her remarks became controversial, she said that she was emphasizing the importance of diplomacy. At any rate, she made a meaningful point by addressing the causes of the Korean War at this juncture.
It is widely known that what inspired Kim Il-sung’s plan to take over South Korea within three weeks was U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s declaration that did not include the Korea Peninsula as part of the “defense perimeter” in Asia on January 12, 1950.
Stalin was seeking ways to expand in Asia amid tension with the United States after World War II, and he considered that the United States would not support South Korea militarily and approved Kim Il-sung’s plan.
67 years have passed, and it is accepted knowledge that China is seeking to shake the Korea-US alliance to win regional and international hegemony and leadership, and pressuring Korea with Thaad is a part of its tactics. Loosening of the Korea-U.S. military alliance could be rephrased as “drawing the second Acheson Line.”
Of course, Korea-U.S. alliance won’t break easily. The point is how to keep the alliance intact in the changed security environment after North Korea completes nuclear and ICBM weapons system. If North Korea attacks Seoul, the United States would be reluctant to back up if continental United States is within the range of North Korean nuclear attack. Deterrence would be meaningless, and American citizens may demand Washington not to get involved in Korean Peninsula affairs. Experts like Graham T. Allison, director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center, and Professor Hugh of the Australian National University in Canberra say that Kim Jong-un would never give up nuclear and missiles development. As the Korean government is pressured by China over Thaad, it could be seen externally that the regional power balance bolstered by the Korea-U.S. alliance is cracking.
If you think this assumption is too extreme or believe that North Korea would never use nuclear weapons on Seoul or attack South Korea, you should not use the word “security.” Security begins with the assumptions that there is even the slightest possibility that there is a threat.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 30, Page 32
*The author is a rewriting editor and senior reporter on foreign affairs and security issues.