Posted March. 07, 2017 07:05,
Updated March. 07, 2017 07:12
North Korea fired a number of ballistic missiles on Monday. This came 22 days after the North fired an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM). Four missiles that were launched at the North’s westernmost village of Dongchang-ri, Cholsan Country, North Pyongan Province, flew some 1,000 kilometers, and three of them fell within Japan’s exclusive economic zine in the East Sea. The Dongchang-ri launch station was the site where the Stalinist country fired the long-range missile Kwangmyongsong-4 calling it a satellite in February last year. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un fired ICBMs from the site and thus sent a message of threat, effectively indicating, “We will fire an intercontinental ballistic missile next time.”
The latest provocation is all the more shocking because it came soon after news reports suggested the U.S. is considering deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. If tactical nuclear weapons are deployed to the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, the North’s "monopoly of nuclear weapons" on the Korean Peninsula will come to an end. The North’s strategy of superiority based on asymmetrical threat will also lose its meaning as well. It is for this reason that Kim Jong Un is speeding up the effort to complete the development of an ICBM loaded with a nuclear warhead that can reach the U.S. mainland.
Chances are high that the North will make provocations in the form of "all-in bet." The impeachment process has split South Korea into two due to divide of public opinions, and social conflict offers a great timing for the North to gamble with brinkmanship tactics. China started to take retaliatory measures against South Korea, which is moving to deploy the terminal high altitude area defense system, and hence the North may as well believe that China is on its side. North Korea is a "rogue state" that brags about its very existence by threatening its neighboring countries. The North even staged an assassination during daytime at an international airport in a foreign country, and it has no reason to miss this critical timing.
Against this backdrop, presidential candidates for the main opposition Minjoo Party made remarks such as “We can resolve the issue if we discuss from square one (former party leader Moon Jae-in)” and “We must reject the unjust demand to blockade China (Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung)” in their forum on Monday. Their remarks were made soon after the North fired missiles en masse, and at a time when China is mobilizing all different ridiculous retaliatory measures against South Korea. “South Korea has to maintain our strategic ambiguity until the last moment we need to change,” Moon said. We want to ask Moon whether he truly does not understand that such an "ambiguity" is a wrong message that could prompt Pyongyang to make misjudgment. As the Minjoo Party is so indifferent to the grave reality, some participants of the candlelight vigils (demanding President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment) took to the street in front of Lotte Department Store in Gwangju, South Jeolla Province and demanded Lotte to withdraw its decision to provide land for THAAD.
The best way for South Korea to respond to North Korea’s reckless provocations is to gain the upper hand in a tug of war by banking on a unified national opinion and the power of alliance. Seoul and Washington should complete deployment of THAAD as soon as possible on the basis of a robust South Korea-U.S. alliance. Seoul should also remove any defense loopholes by deploying an additional THAAD system. It also should start process to gain consent from the international community to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. The South should also strengthen its capacity to carry out offensive operations including preemptive strikes and an operation to decapitate the North Korean leader during the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills. This also constitutes an example of ‘peace through strength’ as proclaimed by U.S. President Donald Trump. Seoul should also call on Washington to ‘gachi gapsida (go together)’ by significantly boosting its defense budget to strengthen its military capability.