The U.S. Defense Department on Thursday announced new plans to hold a joint maritime drill with South Korea in the East and West seas, almost simultaneously with Seoul's Defense Ministry. But the Pentagon spokesman was mostly asked about China, which has protested against the exercise. The drill is a response to North Korea's sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors, but the focus seems to be more on China and the U.S. than on Korea.
The Global Times, a sister paper of China's official People's Daily, reporting news that a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will take part in the drill not in the West but in the East Sea, quoted a U.S. Defense Department spokesman as saying the Chinese "are a regional power... obviously whose opinion we respect and consider."
China deleted any direct reference to North Korea as the culprit in the sinking from a UN Security Council president's statement, and effectively neutralized the joint South Korea-U.S. drill in the West Sea. Seoul has had little say in the negotiations between Washington and Beijing.
The 1950-53 Korean War was in fact a war between the U.S. and China. The South relied on the U.S. from the moment of the invasion, and the North soon depended on China. The commander of the Chinese forces is said to have told Kim Il-sung, "This is a war between me and MacArthur." Observing the centenary of the country's colonization by Japan and the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, we boast that our country has become the 15th largest economy in the world, but where security is concerned things are little different than they were 100 or 60 years ago.
The North is unable to exist without China, and the South too seems to rely on the U.S. to prevent a war. In a sense, they are protected by America and China.
Watching U.S.-China competition over the Korean Peninsula a few months after the sinking of the Cheonan makes it clear that South Korea is also to blame. The perception that someone else will defend the country seems to have settled in our minds, and we are watching the tug-of-war between the U.S. and China as if it did not concern us.
A century ago, public opinion was divided over whether the foreign country that would help us was Japan, China or Russia, and now we believe we can rely on the U.S. How else could a conspiracy theory take hold that the government fabricated the Cheonan sinking to win votes in the local elections? If we were ready to take up arms and defend ourselves if a war breaks out, we would have no time for such rumor-mongering.
Independence means that citizens take up arms and fight in wartime for themselves. But those who talk the most about "independence" in this country are also the most likely to believe these preposterous theories and rumors. What they advocate is not genuine independence backed by the will to defend the country but false independence for political ends. Only when we realize that we alone can defend our country will we be able to play a leading role and the U.S. and China take a back seat. That is true independence and the beginning of reunification.
By Ahn Yong-hyun from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk