Time of turmoilSouth Korea is being bombarded with challenges on the diplomatic and security fronts. Japan is restricting our trade and a Russian spy aircraft has violated our national airspace. No progress has been made on the denuclearization of North Korea while the inter-Korean relationship shows signs of fissures. Pyongyang has disclosed the development of a submarine capable of being equipped with missiles and tested a new type of short-range missile. North Korea is even threatening South Korean President Moon Jae-in, telling South Korean officials “not to ignore warnings from Pyongyang.”
The developments are startling enough for the Moon administration, which has placed many of its eggs in the North Korea basket. The security challenges have arisen at a time when Seoul has a trade row with Tokyo. In the sky over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea earlier this week, aircraft from China and Russia and a fleet of South Korean fighter jets were engaged in a tense face-off for three hours. North Korea launched two missiles into the East Sea, and Japan has ratcheted up its territorial claims over Dokdo. In a trip to Tokyo, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton vaguely sided with Tokyo and pressured Seoul to send troops to the Strait of Hormuz to back U.S. engagement in the waters. The global powers are capitalizing on the conflict between Korea and Japan for their own gains.
But so far, our government has been naive and inconsistent. Our maritime borders have become vulnerable to the extent of letting a North Korean boat come in unspotted. The Blue House deleted the term “alliance” from the annual Korea-U.S. joint drill and floated the idea of scrapping a military intelligence sharing agreement with Japan. Even as Russian spy jets penetrated our national airspace, the Blue House has not held a National Security Council meeting.
Crisis control is a key to governance. The Moon administration talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Our foreign policy direction must stay firm no matter how many times the head of state changes. Based on the Korea-U.S. alliance, Seoul must maintain amicable relations with Tokyo. At the same time, it should strengthen relationships with Beijing and Moscow.
Moon has aides with no expertise in diplomacy in top security and diplomatic positions. As a result, Korea was sandbagged by Japan’s export curbs and got the cold shoulder from the U.S. when it asked for mediation. The government must fill vital posts with professionals in the field so that the commander can cope with turmoil on the external front.