“The close cooperation between the South Korean and U.S. military shone brightly in response to projectiles recently launched by North Korea, including “dando” missiles,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in praising South Korean and U.S. military commanders at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. “The momentum of talks can continue as the two countries have spoken in a calm and disciplined voice together as long as there is no further provocation by North Korea,” he added. The president has clearly expressed his stand to restore talks with Pyongyang at a meeting with Commander General Robert Abrams and other leaders of United States Forces Korea (USFK).
President Moon has emphasized that strong joint defense posture by the South Korea-U.S. alliance is the foundation for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. In this regard, the South Korean president highly praised the low-key response of South Korean and U.S. forces to North Korean missiles launched on May 4 and 9 as a way to help prevent the state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula from worsening and resume talks with Pyongyang.
However, many people cannot help but view such a “calm and disciplined” response as an excessive carefulness to overlook and turn a blind eye to the truth in North Korean provocations, even somewhat timid attitude toward Pyongyang. The South Korea government and military have kept repeatedly saying that the identity of North Korean projectiles is “under scrutiny” for over 15 days since the first missile. This vague statement has continued even when the U.S. government and the USFK have concluded that the projectiles were indeed ballistic missiles.
This is why President Moon’s mispronunciation of “dando” missiles, which sounds similar to “tando” missiles, meaning ballistic missiles in Korean, cannot be easily disregarded as an honest mistake. The South Korean presidential office later made a correction that the president meant to say “dangeori” missiles, which mean short-range missiles in Korean. However, there lies a denial of the reality that North Korea launched ballistic missiles in a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution.
The Korean Peninsula is maintaining a vulnerable peace and waiting for the resumption of talks with no clear timeframe since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit between North Korea and the U.S. on February 28. The prerequisite of dialogue between the two countries, simultaneous discontinuation of North Korea’s nuclear and missiles provocations and the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, is being threatened again. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for a decision by the U.S. by the end of this year, but the situation on the Korean Peninsula could quickly return to the hostile state at the end of 2017 if North Korea continues to heighten the level of its provocations.
Prudence to manage the current state of affairs is important, but what’s more critical is to see the reality. Working toward the “new Korean Peninsula regime” vision is necessary, but preparation against imminent threats is imperative. Now is the time to carefully examine if military cooperation with the USFK, the bedrock of South Korea’s security, is in full operation in line with the South Korea-U.S. alliance.