“Pyongyang has an outdated weapons system. The North is more desperate to prolong its regime and survive as a country than have the capacity to attack South Korea,” Song Young-gil, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, said on his social media account on Wednesday. It was his rebuttal to an American columnist who argued that South Korea may collapse as Afghanistan did without the support of the U.S. by saying that the South has military superiority over the North.
Song’s claim that the North does not have the capacity to attack South Korea is close to the distortion of basic facts. He baked his claim by saying that Pyongyang has an outdated weapons system and cannot even procure the fuel needed to run its tanks and jets due to economic sanctions. However, he failed to mention the biggest threat that the North can pose, which is nuclear weapons. The North is estimated to already have 20 to 60 nuclear weapons. Even just one of them can bring an irreversible catastrophe to Seoul. Washington believes that Pyongyang now has the nuclear capacity to attack not only its southern neighbor but also the U.S. mainland. This was the reason that promoted the U.S. to engage in dialogue with the North. Given the circumstances, should we truly believe that the North does not have the capacity to attack the South?
As North Korea’s nuclear threat has grown significantly, maintaining the sufficient size of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and conducting ROK-U.S. joint military exercises are essential to South Korea’s security. However, Song said that the USFK presents the overcapacity of the ROK-U.S. alliance’s military power in July last year as the head of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, which reveals the need to reduce the USFK. Does Song believe that the USFK is too big and the North Korean troops are too small on the Korean Peninsula? He also emphasized on Wednesday that wartime operational control (OPCON) should be transferred from the U.S. to South Korea as soon as possible. However, 74 members of the broader ruling side, including the Democratic Party of Korea and the Open Democratic Party, called for the delay of the ROK-U.S. joint military exercises, which are to evaluate the South Korean military’s OPCON capability. Their arguments are inconsistent.
The civil war in Afghanistan clearly shows that the win or loss of war is not simply decided by physical military power. The Afghan government had superior troops and equipment over the Taliban thanks to the U.S.’s support. As leaders were heavily dishonest and corrupt and lost the will to fight, the country collapsed. Not being careless and showing one’s weaknesses to an enemy that has inferior fighting power are the key to security. It is concerning how South Korea’s security will be ensured as the leader of the ruling party disregards the currently-existing threats of North Korean nuclear weapons and makes claims that bring down the guard of people against the North.