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Politicians should not play politics with N. Korean threats

Politicians should not play politics with N. Korean threats

Posted March. 25, 2016 07:55,   

Updated March. 25, 2016 08:05


President Park Geun-hye ordered the government to strengthen the level of vigilance across the country on Thursday, as North Korea ratcheted up its threats against the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. The presidential office said North Korea's latest provocation is “not only a threat against South Korea and its president but a challenge to the world at large.” At a time when the South Korean military is on higher vigilance posture following the North’s fourth nuclear test and a key part of the U.S. military is deployed to the Korean Peninsula, the presidential office held a National Security Council meeting and gave the order for heightened alert.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed a “successful” test of a solid-fuel rocket engine. If that is true, it means that the North is rapidly continuing its inter-continental ballistic missile development against the United Nations’ sanctions on Pyongyang. If the North successfully develops a solid-fuel rocket engine, instead of using liquid fuel that takes a long time for fuel injection, it would become more difficult to detect signs of the North’s provocation for a pre-emptive strike. The development indicates a serious move by the North following its disclosure of photos of a nuclear bomb detonator and a claim that it had secured the missile re-entry technology. We should not dismiss such claims as a mere show of military might in protest against the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises targeting Kim. Rather than underestimating the North’s nuclear and missile technologies, Seoul should be thoroughly prepared for a worst-case scenario.

Some people suspect that Seoul is creating a hype about the North Korean threat in an attempt to divert attention from the ruling Saenuri Party’s internal feud over candidate nominations for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Although the current situation is real and different from the “North wind,” a term that refers to the South Korean government fueling fears over North Korean threats, such suspicions persist. The political circles are responsible for such a situation.

Past elections show that the “North wind” never generated the results intended by the planners. Neither the ruling party nor the opposition should play politics with national security. A ceremony in memory of a series of North Korean provocations in the Yellow Sea takes place for the first time on Friday. If politicians were of one mind over national security, the North would not have been able to continue its provocations off the west coast.

한기흥기자 eligius@donga.com