Hell-bent on engagementThe tests of advanced cruise missiles by North Korea last weekend pose a serious threat to our security. Nevertheless, our military intelligence authority could not detect any sign before or even after the tests. The brass became aware of the missile tests only after North Korea’s state mouthpiece announced them. If the missiles had been launched in a real battle, they would have dealt a critical blow to South Korea. Given the missiles’ shooting range of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles), they could strike the entire area of South Korea and reach as far as U.S. bases in Japan.
In January, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un specifically mentioned cruise missiles in the Workers’ Party Congress in which he vowed to ratchet up the country’s nuclear capabilities and develop tactical nuclear weapons. His mentioning of the word “nuclear” 36 times in a speech to the congregation led to the completion of the cruise missile in eight months. That suggests gradual advancement of its nuclear capability according to its timetable. Despite the frequent accentuation of Pyongyang’s determination to denuclearize by President Moon Jae-in and his aides, the way North Korea behaves points in exactly the opposite direction.
A bigger worry comes from the Moon Jae-in administration’s careless attitude towards North Korea. The reaction government officials showed after the missile tests dumbfound us. Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong linked the missile tests to the need for Seoul to resume talks with Pyongyang. He appears to use a brazen provocation by North Korea as an excuse for dialogue. Earlier, First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun made stunning remarks suggestive of a nonchalant embrace of the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang. “The reactivation of the Yongbyon nuclear facility does not constitute a violation of the agreement between the two leaders.” How can we expect a reasonable strategy for denuclearization from such officials?
National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Park Ji-won also took a very inappropriate action. As the press reported the tests by North Korea, he was busy answering questions from a number of media outlets about his potential involvement in attacking the opposition People Power Party (PPP) over former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl’s alleged role in helping the PPP file a complaint against pro-Moon figures with the prosecution. Does the spy chief really prioritize his support for the ruling Democratic Party (DP) ahead of the next presidential election over gathering intelligence on North Korea?
Park did not make any protest against the North’s missile launches last weekend. Despite the obvious need for the president to hold a National Security Council meeting to deal with the missile launches, his officials were engrossed with downplaying the provocation. “That is not a violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” they said. A government official even translated the absence of Kim Jong-un at the site of the missile test into his intention to resume dialogue with South Korea. Our biggest security risk comes from the government’s relaxed attitude toward Pyongyang. It must not forget that North Korea has not given up its ambition to become a nuclear power.