Do not dismiss saber-rattling

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Do not dismiss saber-rattling

On Monday, North Korea’s mouthpiece, the Rodong Sinmun, revealed the details of its firing of 12 missiles on seven occasions over the last two weeks. The paper ran a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watching a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) be fired from a reservoir. Such a firing pattern is unprecedented.

With the locations of the missile launches scattered across the country, North Korea launched various types of missiles with different ranges to show off its capability to fire nuclear warhead-tipped missiles at any place and time. The newspaper faithfully quoted Kim as saying, “We don’t feel any need to talk with our enemies.” North Korea has opened the way for a preemptive nuclear strike through legislation last month.

An emboldened North and the security situation around the Korean Peninsula are sounding loud alarms. Given the possibility of North Korea taking a cue from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use tactical nukes in the Ukraine war, South Korea must not dismiss the saber-rattling from the North as a bluff. Kim declared that North Korea is fully prepared to strike and destroy its targets at any place and time it chooses.

We must thoroughly brace for any contingency. The most urgent is a fast completion of the three-axis missile defense based on a Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense system and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan. Fortunately, the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration has started reactivating the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (Edscg) between the two allies. But the government must draw up a detailed action plan based on diverse scenarios.

More worrisome is the lax attitude in the South toward the alarming developments in the North. On national security, there should not be any divide between political enemies. But regrettably, Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung stigmatized the joint South Korea-U.S.-Japan drill in the East Sea as a “pro-Japanese defense posture.” The DP must recognize that a thorough military preparedness is not incompatible with finding a peaceful solution.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, his government and People Power Party (PPP) must convince the peace-blind DP leadership of the need to jointly deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea rather than turning a blind eye to it. If the government leaves the ideology-driven forces unattended, it will certainly have negative impact on security. As the presidential office said, a government must protect the lives and safety of the people before it is too late.
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