Strong posture neededThe Ministry of National Defense announced Tuesday that South Korea and the United States will conduct joint military exercises from April 1. The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills were delayed until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics so as not to provoke North Korea during the Games.
The Key Resolve drill — a command post exercise based on computer simulations — will be carried out for two weeks from mid-April, while the Foal Eagle exercise — a combined field training exercise conducted by the two nations’ armed forces under the auspices of the Combined Forces Command — will go on for a month from April 1. The ministry said that the number of U.S. soldiers joining the two military exercises will be similar to previous years.
It is fortunate that the two allies agreed to stage the annual drills on the same level as in the past despite growing concerns that the Moon Jae-in administration would try to downscale the exercises ahead of Moon’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April and U.S. President Donald Trump’s subsequent summit with Kim. The ministry’s announcement reaffirms that South Korea and America will continue to put maximum pressure on North Korea until they achieve the goal of denuclearization.
However, some aspects of the drills have changed. First of all, the period of the Foal Eagle exercise was cut in half from the usual two months to one month. The defense ministry explained that the two allies will conduct the drill in a concentrated way.
But the liberal administration cannot avoid the suspicion that it is trying not to provoke Pyongyang. U.S. aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines will not participate in the drill this time. Surprisingly, what Defense Minister Song Young-moo told U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift proved true. On March 8, Song half-jokingly said to Swift, “You don’t have to bring such equipment as nuclear submarines to the Korean Peninsula this time.” Strategic assets like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines are what North Korea is most afraid of.
The government should not bend over backwards to please North Korea when Seoul and Pyongyang have not even established a basic framework for denuclearization.
A group of local civic groups are trying to set up a committee to nominate Moon for the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s like counting your chickens before they hatch. The government must maintain a strong position and not go wobbly on us now.