Security on the back burner

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Security on the back burner

It turns out that the Moon Jae-in administration dismissed the need to upgrade the joint Korea-U.S. wartime operation plans (Oplans) to prepare for nuclear and missile attacks from North Korea. Despite repeated requests from the United States Forces Korea (USFK) to improve the Oplan since 2019 to cope with North Korean threats, the Ministry of National Defense refused. The ministry finally accepted the demand at an annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) on December 2.

That was revealed by former USFK and Combined Forces Commander Gen. Robert Abrams (Ret.) in a recent interview with the Voice of America. Though the current Oplan cannot protect South Korea from the North’s nuclear and missile attacks, the defense ministry was reluctant to ratchet up the plan.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have noticeably advanced since the launch of the liberal administration in 2017. According to the CIA and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), North Korea successfully conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017 — a hydrogen bomb this time. The Rand Corporation assumes that North Korea possess up to 100 nuclear bombs by now. Satellite photos show that the country has reactivated the Yongbyong nuclear facilities, extracted plutonium, and expanded an enrichment facility.

North Korean missiles also raise alarm. The country developed several types of short-range missiles, including ones that are difficult to intercept and ones that can be tipped with warheads. North Korea now aims to deter the U.S. from sending reinforcements to South Korea in an emergency with its ICBMs that can strike as far as the U.S. mainland. Military analysts are warning against the possibility of its tactical nuclear weapons breaking our defense line. Pointing to the comparative weakness of our military, General Abrams advised Seoul to acquire tactical strike capabilities and develop integrated missile defense systems.

But the defense ministry brushed off the USFK’s request to renew the Oplan for nearly three years. This astounding aloofness is obviously related to the government’s blind obsession with improving inter-Korean relations and a declaration to end the Korean War. Making such declarations without preparing for nuclear and missile threats leads nowhere. After the two allies agreed to updating the Oplan earlier this month, North Korea’s state mouthpieces denounced the move as “trying to elevate tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The Moon administration rushed to take back wartime operational control from the U.S. But that was just wishful thinking without addressing the intrinsic problem. We urge the government to safeguard the nation no matter what.
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