[Editorial] Tripartite security cooperation is needed

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[Editorial] Tripartite security cooperation is needed

With New Year approaching fast, security situation in and around the Korean Peninsula is turning more tense after North Korea fired two medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) to the East Sea on Sunday. North Korea took the action a month after firing an advanced ICBM on Nov. 18. The country fired 64 missiles on 36 occasions this year alone. Last Thursday, it even tested a more powerful solid fuel-based engine for ICBMs. As solid-propellant rocket can shorten time needed to launch ICBMs, it could shake the foundation of the Korea-U.S. alliance.

In the meantime, Japan made public a security document on the Self-Defense Forces having ability to counterattack enemy bases by doubling the defense budget within five years from now. Japan seeks to strike back the very origin of enemy missile attacks when the country is attacked from outside. To achieve the goal, Tokyo plans to buy 500 U.S. Tomahawk missiles with the shooting range of 1,250 kilometers (777 miles). If Japan raises defense budget up to two percent of its GDP, its defense expenditure will be the third largest in the world, following the U.S. and China.

Behind Japan’s remarkable military reinforcements are endless missile provocations by North Korea and increasingly offensive security policies of China and Russia. Foreign media outlets often raise the possibility of China invading the Yonaguni Island — Japan’s westernmost island, only 111 kilometers to the east of Taiwan — in case China invades Taiwan. The inhabited island serves as a frontline base for logistics support for Taiwan in emergency.

Such alarming developments around the Korean Peninsula rapidly escalate security risks in northeast Asia. In particular, North Korea, China and Russia are augmenting their military cooperation. Chinese and Russian military aircraft conduct joint drills around the peninsula nearly on a regular basis. Their infiltration of the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (Kadiz) takes place more often than before. China and Russia also veto UN Security Council resolutions denouncing uninterrupted missile launches by North Korea.

Such developments raise serious challenges for South Korea. If Japan accelerates a military buildup, South Korea is surrounded by three most military spenders and a neighbor armed with nuclear missiles. If a crisis hits the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea — the major maritime route for international trade — will be blocked, which will critically hurt our economy.

If North Korea carries out its seventh nuclear test next year, it will endanger our security further. The government must come up with effective countermeasures to deal with the worsening security environment.
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