Caution is needed

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Caution is needed

During summit talks in Pyongyang, the two Koreas signed a military agreement to ensure North Korean denuclearization and eased tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The measures include a halting of all military drills along the demarcation line starting Nov. 1 and removal of guard posts along the border and buffer zones to prevent clashes in all domains: on the ground, in the air and in the sea. The two Koreas will discuss jointly searching for remains of fallen soldiers from the war in the demilitarized zone and installing traffic, telecommunications, and customs outposts in the joint military zones.

The two agreed to jointly use the armed area of the mouth of the Han River. These actions will help to dispel the last remnants of the Cold War and move us toward peaceful co-existence. The Blue House touted the agreement as a “de facto war-ending declaration.”

At the same time, South Korea has yielded military capabilities. The no-flight zone along the military demarcation line can prevent skirmishes between fighters from the two Koreas. But banning automated surveillance drones along the frontline can affect our watch over North Korean military movements.

There will be no use for a drone fleet that cost billions of dollars. The Defense Ministry has been investing heavily to expand the fleet of drones as automated aerial vehicles are essential in modern warfare.

The language of “hostile behavior” in the agreement also requires clarity. Military activities for vigilance against North Korean provocation are important. If they are deemed “hostile” as well, the military’s role in the South inevitably will weaken.

The guard post removals should take place proportionately. Creating a joint fishing zone along the west coast also should be addressed with caution. The capital could be put at risk if a North Korean vessel pretending to be a civilian fishing boat enters the frontline island of Incheon.

Moreover, the military agreement can trigger anxieties among the people of the South and shake the security alliance between Seoul and Washington. Officials must coordinate closely with their U.S. counterparts and get endorsements from the people and legislature.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 21, Page 30
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