Pandering to PyongyangDespite a meeting in Hawaii on Friday between defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States, they refrained from announcing any timetable for joint military exercises that were delayed until after the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Both men agreed to put off the joint annual drills — the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills originally scheduled for early March — in order not to provoke North Korea during the Games.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported that the defense chiefs reached a consensus in the meeting to carry out the delayed joint military exercises shortly after the Paralympics are over on Mar. 18. Responding to news reports, the Ministry of National Defense took the position that it will keep a low profile on the sensitive issue, citing the need to not provoke North Korea amid eased tension in the lead-up to the Games.
However, despite such a submissive attitude of our Defense Ministry, North Korea is denouncing any parties who mention the need for its denuclearization. In a Sunday article entitled “We must counter all challenges from anti-unification forces,” the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s mouthpiece, attacked the demand for denuclearization among South Korea, the United States and Japan.
On Saturday, the paper described our Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha’s participation in a security meeting in Vancouver last week as an “impure scheme” to thwart the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is preparing for a large military parade in Pyongyang on Feb. 8 to celebrate the founding of its armed forces. U.S. security analysts anticipate that North Korea will make another nuclear or missile provocation around late March after the Paralympics are over.
Nevertheless, our government is keeping mum in the face of Pyongyang’s bad attitude. It was U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis — not our Defense Minister Song Young-moo — who warned that the ongoing inter-Korean talks for the North’s participation in the Games should not hamper the international goal of denuclearizing the rogue state. Under such circumstances, top officers of our Defense Security Command vowed to keep “political neutrality” while washing their hands at a creek in a mountain near its compound.
Our Defense Ministry plans to cut the number of our soldiers from 620,000 to 500,000 by 2022 and shorten their service term to 18 months from 21 months. Such actions only make the public worried about our security. The Olympics are important, but the government must beware of the North.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 29, Page 30