White Paper Must Show Will to Defend Ourselves

      December 29, 2010 13:42

      The Defense Ministry's white paper due out on Thursday states that North Korea "poses a serious threat to security by developing and augmenting massive conventional military capabilities and weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons and missiles, and through constant armed provocations like the torpedo attack on the Navy corvette Cheonan, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. As long as the threat continues, the North Korean regime and military, the perpetrators of all such provocations, are an enemy."

      In 1995, a year after North Korea vowed to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire," the Defense Ministry first referred to the North as the "main enemy" in the white paper. But in 2004, the Roh Moo-hyun administration changed this to "serious threat," and with the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2008, the reference changed to "direct and serious threat."

      Regardless of these changes, the North Korean regime's fundamental objective has never altered. The bylaws of the North Korean Workers Party, which are more revered than the communist country's constitution, stipulates that the goal of the party is to "achieve complete victory for socialism" in the northern part of the peninsula and to "fulfill the revolutionary tasks" of liberation and democracy throughout the peninsula. This goal has remained the same for decades, and North Korea's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island were in line with it.

      There is no way to avoid calling such a country an enemy. By separating the North Korean public and referring only to the regime and military as an enemy, the Defense Ministry seeks to send a clear warning to Pyongyang and a message to its people that Seoul will not aim its guns at them. But the main opposition Democratic Party said labeling North Korea as an enemy would "drive a wedge" into inter-Korean relations. Surely it must realize that North Korea is the one driving a wedge between the two sides by threatening the South with a nuclear attack.

      President Lee Myung-bak said in May this year that the South Korean military had been unable to establish a correct definition of its enemy over the last 10 years, leading to speculation that the term "main enemy" would resurface in the defense white paper. That is why others now feel the ministry took a weak line by failing to revive the term. But no other country in the world identifies its "main" enemy, because that implies that others are perhaps second or third in the order of enemies.

      Still, actions speak louder than words. The world's big powers do not identify their enemies in their defense white papers. Instead, the white papers of powerful nations make other countries hesitate before they contemplate any aggression, because they take their cues from these papers that lay out military strategies and troop deployment plans and show the evident will to use them when necessary. What matters is to let North Korea know that we are ready to defend ourselves.

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