Go to contents

[Editorial] Tolerating N. Korea’s Provocation?

Posted March. 31, 2009 10:48,   


President Lee Myung-bak is opposed to military action against North Korea’s alleged bid to launch a long-range missile. On Japan’s planned interception of a North Korean missile, President Lee told the Financial Times that even if Pyongyang launches a missile, Tokyo should not intercept it. His opposition to one of the most important countermeasures against the North is equivalent to tolerating the provocation.

The official explanation from the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae puts into doubt Seoul’s will to deter Pyongyang from launching a missile. A presidential official said, “We`ve decided it’s not necessary to cause a freeze or crisis in inter-Korean relations just because of the missile.” The presidential office considers a military response to the proposed launch as creating unnecessary tension. Is Cheong Wa Dae unaware of why North Korea is so preoccupied with developing long-range ballistic missiles?

Before the president’s interview, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also said the Pentagon has no plan to intercept a North Korean missile. Seoul and Washington have cooperated in helping Pyongyang at a time when working together to prevent a missile launch is not good enough.

The irresponsible responses by Seoul and Washington will inevitably cause serious side effects. Military experts warn that President Lee’s comment has given the North the green light to launch its Taepodong-2 missile, enabling the North to make provocations comfortably. The early retreat by Seoul and Washington also makes it difficult for the United Nations to impose strong sanctions on the North if a missile is launched. The toleration of the North’s nuclear and missile development is feared to torpedo the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

President Lee said a tough reaction does not necessarily help inter-Korean coexistence, saying he will refrain from extreme measures such as shutting down the joint industrial complex in Kaesong. North Korea, however, detained a South Korean staying at the complex yesterday. Seoul must realize that a soft stance on Pyongyang’s threats and provocations cannot protect South Korea and its people.