South Korea’s Moon must face facts

South Korea’s Moon must face facts

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 6 May, 2017

India has long had a tradition of self-defeating and self-limiting policies but in such a trait, there is clearly competition from South Korea. The front runner in the ongoing Presidential election in that commercial superpower wishes to scrap the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system) now under installation in the Republic of Korea (RoK). If elected to office, Moon Jae-in would reverse the deployment and send back the anti-missile missiles already installed in his country, even though the capital city, Seoul, is only a few minutes flying time away from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). If Candidate Moon becomes President Moon and follows through on his promise, several hundred thousand residents of Seoul may pay with their lives for this decision. Each of those lives would be the responsibility of the new President of the RoK. 

The fact is that the unpredictability of the unquestioned leader of North Korea (DPRK) makes it essential that South Korea (RoK) install a robust anti-missile system, and the $ 850 million bill being charged from the RoK by the US seems a low enough price to pay to ensure greater security against DPRK attacks. That such a system works has been demonstrated in Israel, where the Iron Dome system has ensured that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in Israel have been saved as a consequence of the deployment of the joint US-Israel defense system against missiles sent from Lebanon and Gaza. Both Japan as well as South Korea are at risk of attack by North Korea, but where the Japanese political class has understood the danger and agreed to undertake defensive steps, in the case of South Korea, anti-Americanism has reached a level such as to disregard the reality of the threat posed by Kim Jong Un. The young master of North Korea has shown through his boldness that he is unafraid of international pressure and retaliation, and is going forward with the nuclear weapons program as rapidly as circumstances allow, together with the development of missile systems that in time will have the capability to reach the west coast of the US, if not the east coast. Given the nearness of Seoul to the missile launch pads of North Korea, and the density of population in what is among the most prosperous metropolises in the world, it is inexplicable why Candidate Moon seeks to do away with the anti-missile system being installed in his country at such speed 

In the past in India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru assumed that other countries would be as pacifist as he had made India. In 1962, Nehru refused to believe that the powerful and battle-hardened Chinese military would take to the field against its Indian counterpart, which itself was severely weakened as a result of neglect of the Armed forces by the world’s foremost pacifist leader. The consequence was an appalling military defeat in which hundreds of valiant soldiers were sacrificed. Later, in the 1990s, the withdrawal of forces from bunkers in Kargil as a consequence of the belief that the Pakistan army would not take advantage of such actions resulted in the grabbing of significant areas of territory by the Pakistan military. Only heroic action by the military was able to seize back the territory, and this too took place only after the loss of several lives. 

Unfortunately for South Korea, Presidential Candidate Moon seems to believe that North Korea will not make good on its threats and will instead simply bluster but not act. Hopefully, he will understand that his important nation needs to follow the maxim of trusting in peace while keeping defensive measures on a high alert level. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that North Korea be given concessions only after agreement that it will turn away from the path of developing nuclear weapons and missile systems designed to carry their destructive cargo to cities in South Korea, Japan and the US. Certainly there should be a Sunshine Policy, indeed a Bright Sunshine policy, towards the North but this must follow and not precede a peace agreement. Otherwise, each concession will only speed up the process by which the DPRK becomes a deadly threat to countries even on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Once elected, President Moon needs to ensure that talks take place between the US and North Korea that would ensure a unified and prosperous peninsula. However, till that beautiful day, care should be taken to ensure full protection to the people of South Korea from any potential nuclear attack from its militarily potent neighbour.

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