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Determination needed to end N. Korean attack ambition

Posted November. 23, 2013 08:21,   


The artillery attacks on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea three years ago are an incident that is still in progress. The North issued a belligerent statement toward the South that mentioned “sea of fire at Yeonpyeong Island at the presidential office” on Friday, the eve of the attack’s third anniversary. The North killed two soldiers and two civilians by launching artillery attacks for the first time since the Korean War, but it shamelessly told lies, saying, “It was a counterattack on the South’s provocations.” Soon after the South Korean military’s artillery firing drill within South Korean waters, the North bombarded artillery shells at more than 170 sites on Yeonpyeong Island, including residential areas. This is the truth about the incident that happened at the time.

The North remained silent for some time, but has resumed acts to escalate tension. After the second and third nuclear tests this year, the North threatened until around this past summer that it would make the Five Islands in the Yellow Sea, Seoul and Washington into blazing infernos. We cannot afford to disregard simply as a verbal bombshell those threats by the North, given that it actually launched strikes on Yeonpyeong after sinking the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan by a torpedo attack. Kim Jong Un, who will mark the second anniversary of his inauguration as the North Korean leader next month, could also become even more hardline in his policy toward the South.

Over the past three years, inter-Korean confrontation in the Yellow Sea has become more pressing and tense. The South Korean military increased troops on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands, and deployed Spike missiles and Cobra helicopters that could launch precision attacks on the North’s coastal artillery guns. The North moved forward its 170 mm and 240 million long-range guns, and completed deployment of air cushion vehicles and attack helicopters for use in surprise attacks. Kim Jong Un visited Mu Island and Jangjae Island across Baengnyeong Island three times this year alone, revealing his belligerence.

The South Korean military has stressed anew that if the North strikes again it will strike with vengeance not only the origin of the North’s attack but also its command center. When it comes to national security, we cannot afford to leave any loophole. Three years ago, the South had six K-9 self-propelled artillery guns on Yeonpyeong Island, but three of them were out of order and could not be used to launch counterstrikes. The South needs future strategy not only to tackle immediate threat but also to counter the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles. The process to select the South Korean Air Force’s next-general fighter jets, in which the F-35A has been picked as the preferred choice, also added to anxiety of the public. As the military was swayed in its choice of aircraft models and the number of jets to be procured declined to 40, the public’s trust in the military leadership has waned and concern over a vacuum in the nation’s air defense has escalated.

South Korea’s Five Northwestern Islands, including Yeonpyeong, are strategic assets that can be likened to unsinkable battleships to the South. To North Korea, they are like a lethal weapon that can instantly penetrate the North’s waist. Despite such an environment, the late former President Roh Moo-hyun positively reacted to the then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s suggestion to remove the inter-Korean Northern Limit Line during the second inter-Korean summit, causing divide and conflict in public opinions in the South. In order for the South to prevent a second Yeonpyeong incident, the government and military should renew their strongest determination to guard the NLL no matter what.