An alarming security vacuum

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An alarming security vacuum

The security vacuum is becoming more pronounced in the transitional period between the outgoing and incoming administrations. On Saturday, North Korea test-fired two new tactical guided missiles into the East Sea, but our military authorities showed a lax reaction. After the North announced the missile launch the following day, our Joint Chiefs of Staff belatedly admitted it, citing a delay in analyzing the trajectory of the advanced missiles.

The National Security Office (NSO) was also slow in responding to the missile launch. After the first deputy head of the office hurriedly held a vice ministerial-level meeting of security officials Sunday, the Blue House said our military checked the situation in the North. It is lamentable that the NSO did not announce the launch immediately after confirming it. If so, why did the security office call it an “emergency meeting?”

If North Korea’s announcement is true, the new type of tactical guided weapons can pose a serious threat to our security. After the two missiles flew 110 kilometers (68 miles) on March 4 to an altitude of 25 kilometers and then fell into the sea, North Korea praised it for “reinforcing the effectiveness of operating tactical nuclear weapons and diversifying our firepower.” Even given the North’s propensity to bluff, it means the new missiles can destroy South Korea once they are tipped with tactical warheads, a nightmarish scenario for South Korea.

North Korea has conducted a show of force 13 times so far this year, including a test launch of a possible ICBM in March. The country has been extending its target range to Japan and United States. U.S. intelligence authorities expect North Korea to carry out another nuclear test after restoring the Punggyeri test site.

North Korea may hold a large military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the 90th anniversary on April 25 of the founding of its Armed Forces. As the tension is building fast since the start of the South Korea-U.S. joint military drill on Monday, Ambassador Sung Kim, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, visited Seoul Monday to discuss ways to deal with the growing threat from the North. Yet our security authorities appear to be detached from reality.

That’s not all. According to Rep. Shin Won-shik, a retired lieutenant general and a member of the opposition People Power Party, Russia’s reconnaissance aircraft escorted by a fleet of fighter jets penetrated into the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone without a warning on March 24, when North Korea test-fired the ICBM. Our fighter jets took off to counter them, but the military authorities concealed it, not to mention a similar air penetration by Chinese military aircraft the day before.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States is engrossed in handling it. If North Korea makes another provocation, the ally can hardly help South Korea. We hope the Blue House, military authorities and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition committee keep a close watch on the North.
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