Posted April. 12, 2017 07:03,
Updated April. 12, 2017 07:14
Rumors of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula are escalating, as the April 15 birth anniversary of North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung approaches. The United State has repeatedly said it is considering a preemptive strike on North Korea and has reportedly informed its allies of a plan to intercept a North Korean missile if Pyongyang launches another. Some members of U.S. Congress called for preparing for a "post-Kim Jong Un" era, suggesting a regime change in the North. At the Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers meeting, the inevitability of bombing North Korea was mentioned. However, the South Korean government is not visible in the discussions of the fate of the peninsula, while politicians are fueling public anxiety.
On Tuesday, North Korea's foreign ministry and the military General Staff declared an ultra-hardline response to "the United States' reckless act of aggression." If the North conducts its sixth nuclear test and launches an intercontinental ballistic missile or if the signs become evident, the United States is set to take a military countermeasure, be it missile interception or a preemptive strike. As U.S. President Donald Trump's instinctive decision-making and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's reckless brinkmanship collide, there are greater concerns than ever over the possibility of a military clash.
South Korean politicians are emphasizing the importance of national security in their presidential campaigns. Presidential runners are nervous over signs that the key election issue is rapidly shifting from "impeachment" to "national security." In particular, Moon Jae-in, the Democratic Party candidate, canceled some of his visits to local areas and returned to Seoul to chair a meeting on the security situation. He also proposed an emergency security meeting that would involve presidential runners and chairmen from the five major political parties. He is showing a different attitude from the past when he criticized the conservative government for fueling public anxiety over security whenever there were rumors of a security crisis. He seems to show off his crisis management ability as a "security president."
However, Moon says that he would "put his everything" on preventing a war on the peninsula and that there should be no preemptive strike on the North without Seoul's consent. He shows no difference in his attitude toward the North from when he protested the government's shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex during last year's parliamentary elections, asking if Seoul was preparing a war against Pyongyang. The "no preemptive strike" message would adversely affect the U.S. deterrence on the North's reckless provocation and send a wrong signal to Pyongyang.
The South Korean government's response is not reliable, either. It is only repeatedly calling war rumors of social media "groundless." While warning against being deceived by the rumors, the government is avoiding providing concrete answers to the possibility of military measures taken independently by the United States. Although a preemptive strike on the North is a choice of the last resort is highly unlikely, we cannot totally rule out the option. It is time that we should take more seriously the Roman adage, "If you want peace, prepare for war."