The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae agonized over the replacement for Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, who resigned Thursday. President Lee Myung-bak can show his solemn determination as commander-in-chief in the wake of North Korea`s artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island through the appointment of the next defense minister. President Lee must clearly show the public that he and the presidential office will be the first to renew commitment to lay the foundation for a solid national defense. He needs to declare a decisive will that the government will never again allow North Korean aggression at any cost through a public statement or news conference, and thus seek unity of the people.
For Seoul to prevent confusion that erupted over President Lee`s reported order "to prevent the strike from escalating into war" soon after the attack, he and the top brass need to develop and share a common manual to predict scenarios. Communication channels between the military and the government need to be drastically expanded. Only when the president sends a clear message can the military respond to a crisis situation in line with operation manuals the same way they are trained in peace time.
If non-military aides in the presidential office interfere with personnel management in the military, military commanders will disregard the situation on the frontline and instead focus on domestic politics. President Lee and his office must broadly inspect problems in national defense as shown by the Yeonpyeong attack, step up efforts to reform the military, and root out negligence in national defense that has been deep-rooted since the time of the past liberal governments. By so doing, Seoul must ensure that the military focuses on exercises and combat operations without being swayed by domestic politics.
War is not a challenge only the president and military can handle. In 21st century warfare, comprehensive readiness for national defense, including military capability, and the public`s united will and commitment to national defense are just as important. Kim Hee-sang, chief of the Korea Institute for National Security Affairs, said, "Relying on cowardly peace is equivalent to an invitation to war." If South Korea sees a growing number of people who constantly raise conspiracy theories over the Cheonan sinking and take North Korea`s side or attempt to buy peace by giving aid to the North, such practices will effectively instigate the North to launch aggression repeatedly.
In the wake of the pseudo-war situation South Korea faces, the most important task for President Lee is to show confidence that this country can defeat the belligerent North and strong leadership that instills the public with a sense of unity. This is why the public chose the incumbent administration, which pledged to normalize inter-Korean relations through a North Korea policy based on principle