Stop walking on eggshellsU.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Harry Harris, has baffled Seoul by disclosing information about the delivery of a long-range surveillance drone. On Sunday, he tweeted, “Congratulations to the U.S.-ROK Security Cooperation teams on delivering a Global Hawk to the ROK this week. A great day for ROKAF and the ironclad #USROKAlliance.”
The Defense Ministry immediately complained. The surveillance drone fleet cost nearly 1 trillion won ($811 million). The Korean people also have the right to know about the introduction of the cutting-edge reconnaissance assets. But the Moon Jae-in administration tried to keep a low profile in fear of provoking Pyongyang.
The Global Hawk is a key surveillance asset that keeps watch over North Korean military activities. The remotely piloted aircraft flies 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) above ground and can detect movements as small as 30 centimeters (1 foot) on the ground. It can cover as much as 100,000 square kilometers — roughly the size of South Korea.
Even from the southern border, it can monitor the street movements in Pyongyang. The previous government decided to bring in the drones as a key asset to have after the U.S. returns wartime command to South Korea and paid handsomely to bring four drones to the country.
Seoul and Washington reportedly had differed over announcing the delivery of Global Hawk. The U.S. Defense Department wanted to make the announcement upon arrival, but could not do so because of opposition from the Moon administration. Harris instead spilled the beans.
Seoul was also discreet about the arrival of the first drone in December. The delivery was revealed after it was caught on camera by a journalist. The government has been protective of other defense imports, too. It kept the delivery and deployment of F-35A Panther multi-role stealth fighters quiet as well despite their cost of more than 8 trillion won. The fighter jets can secretly enter North Korean skies and strike ballistic missiles or other military facilities there. The aircraft are feared by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Such passive behavior cannot protect our country. North Korea is in a tough spot, further isolated due to the coronavirus outbreak on top of international sanctions. Yet it keeps on with missile and multiple rocket launches. Military authorities must be more vigilant towards North Korea. They should strengthen their alliance with the United States rather than worrying about irking North Korea.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 22, Page 30