Keep politics out of itThe government made the right decision to deploy four additional mobile launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system after North Korea fired an advanced Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile late Friday.
The about-turn from President Moon Jae-in’s earlier decision to suspend a full deployment of the missile defense shield for environmental assessment underscores his deepening anxiety about Pyongyang closing in on the so-called red line regardless of his repeated overtures for dialogue.
Reinforcement of Thaad launchers against increasing deadly missile attacks has become inevitable. But the government’s incoherent and uncoordinated action raises concerns about the way it handles a major security issue.
The Defense Ministry earlier Friday announced that it was expanding the assessment of the Thaad’s environment impact on the site. The ministry said it will decide whether to install the remaining four launchers after the result. About 14 hours later, however, it has reversed that decision after North Korea’s ICBM test on Friday night.
North Korea’s additional ICBM test was forewarned, and yet the defense ministry did not reflect it as a factor in its environmental evaluation plan. It raises serious questions over whether the purpose of the environmental assessment is really to install the missile shield even as Moon during his visit to Washington had assured U.S. politicians that Seoul does not have any intention of reversing its plan to keep Thaad in action in Korea.
South Korea will join other countries to mount pressure on North Korea following its launch of the most-advanced-yet ICBM. North Korea will likely continue to take the provocative path. Seoul must make its stance crystal clear on Thaad. The law currently allows skipping an environmental impact assessment when in need of supporting an emergency military operation. The government must proceed with a full deployment instead of using the antimissile system for political interests.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 31, Page 26