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[Editorial] Military Chiefs Worried

Posted August. 03, 2006 03:05,   


Fifteen elders of the armed forces, including 13 former defense ministers and a reserve general visited the Ministry of Defense and met Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung yesterday. In that meeting, the veterans mainly expressed their worries over the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s breakaway from the Korea-U.S. alliance and a possible transfer of the wartime command on Korea’s military. They emphatically said, “Now is the time to strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance, rather than secede from it.” The meeting was arranged at the request of the elders.

Baek Seon-yeop, a reserve general who fought in the Korean War, said, “The Korea-U.S. alliance, which has been the driving force behind Korea’s democratic and economic development, should not loosen or disintegrate under any circumstances.” He warned, “Further withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea, the dismantlement of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, and downgrade of the rank of a United States Forces Korea commander to lieutenant general would put Korea’s defense at peril.”

Roh Jae-hyun, a former defense minister, said, “Wartime command is supposed to be jointly exercised by the governments of both countries. Therefore, for the government to use the term, “redemption,” is not right,” pointing out, “It is worried that this word may sound appealing to anti-Americans.” Former defense minister Kim Seong-eun chastised the government for turning a blind eye to the reality saying, “For Korea to exercise wartime command solely, intelligence capabilities are essential. Do you think that the U.S. would continue to assist us in intelligence after the transfer of the wartime command?” Hearing what the elders said, one might have a suspicion that the current administration brought up the issue of the wartime command being not knowledgeable of even the basic nature of the alliance’s defense system.

Former defense minister Lee Sang-hun scolded the government saying, “Japan intends to create “Japan-U.S. Combined Forces” emulating the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces. Why is the Korean government trying to go backwards?” He emphasized, “If anything goes wrong with security, it is a recipe for a disaster. Therefore, we have to strengthen security even though that means we may err on the side of excessiveness.”

After all, the bitter advices from the elders were worries over and warnings to President Roh Moo-hyun, the commander in chief. They expressed the desperate feelings Koreans have towards the ever-mounting security uncertainties and the Korea-U.S. relationship that has even more strained since the missile launch by North Korea.

The military exists to protect this nation and its people, not to buttress an administration’s flip-floppy view of security. The president, diplomacy officials and security office-holders should read the military elders’ loyalty and love to the nation wrapped in “angry voices.”