No Room for Empty Threats in Dealing with N.Korea

      October 07, 2010 12:58

      Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told a National Assembly audit on Tuesday that the South Korean military plans to step up psychological operations against North Korea. It wants to change the format of propaganda broadcasts from FM to AM, which can be heard in wider areas of North Korea, and float balloons carrying transistor radios to the North.

      North Korea has started using Twitter and other social networking services to launch psychological warfare operations against the South. According to police, there were 1,434 cases of online North Korean propaganda in 2007, but in the first eight months of this year, 56,814 cases have been reported. Kim appears to have mentioned the need to strengthen psychological warfare in order to deal with the North's offensive.

      In response to North Korea's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, the South announced on May 24 it would boost the amount of propaganda leaflets dropped over the North and resume propaganda broadcasts via loudspeakers along the border. Since then, loudspeakers have been set up at 11 locations along the heavily fortified border, and three more are being built. At the time, the government promised to start the broadcasts as soon as the loudspeakers are ready. But they never got under way because North Korea threatened it would treat them as an "act of war," while China and the U.S. urged the South to refrain from exacerbating tensions further.

      Early this year, the Defense Ministry promised it would immediately return fire if North Korea fires shots south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border separating the two Koreas on the West Sea. But when North Korea did fire 110 artillery rounds into the West Sea on Aug. 9, the South Korean military did not respond. The military is frequently failing to live up to its word.

      Looking back at history, repeated failures by governments to live up to their word, especially in matters of diplomacy and national security, often ended up inviting war. In the 1930s when Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime rearmed itself violating the Treaty of Versailles and occupied portions of Czechoslovakia, the British and French governments merely issued verbal warnings saying they would not tolerate additional acts of provocation. Judging the discrepancy between rhetoric and action as weakness, Germany ended up invading Poland. It was then that the U.K. and France declared war on Germany, starting World War II, which ended up costing tens of millions of lives.

      Winston Churchill said World War II could have easily been avoided if proper steps were taken at the right time. South Korea's words and actions must always be consistent. That is the only way to prevent North Korea from misjudging the situation.

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