Have We Learned the Lesson from the Cheonan Sinking?

      March 27, 2013 13:21

      President Park Geun-hye spoke at a memorial service at the National Cemetery in Daejeon on Tuesday honoring the 46 sailors who were killed when North Korea sank the Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010 and urged Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear weapons if it wishes to continue surviving as a nation.

      "Giving up nuclear arms, missiles, provocations and threats to become a responsible member of the world is the only way to guarantee its survival," she said.

      On the contrary, North Korea is increasingly clinging to its nuclear weapons and missiles as if they were their tickets to survival. The North Korean Army's Supreme Command said in a statement on Tuesday, "From this moment, the Supreme Command puts all of its field artillery including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units into the No. 1 combat ready posture."

      The North's artillery units are targeting the U.S. mainland, Hawaii and Guam and other U.S. military bases in the Pacific as well as South Korea, it claimed. The renegade country’s 29-year-old leader Kim Jong-un has been rallying soldiers by visiting military bases 11 times this month. Even as South Korea mourns the death of 46 sailors, North Korea is assessing its weak points and looking for the best ways to attack.

      The sinking of the Cheonan left a deep scar. Not only did it cause the loss of 46 young sailors, it also fermented deep division and conflict in society when some leftwing politicians and pro-North Korean groups refused to accept evidence collected by an international team of investigators that pointed to North Korea as the culprit. That is exactly what Pyongyang wanted.

      It is only natural that the ruling and opposition camps have differing views on how to deal with the North Korean nuclear standoff. But no political group that seeks to rule the country can water down the crimes North Korea has committed. Representatives from the ruling and opposition parties attended the memorial ceremony, but lawmakers from the far-left Unified Progressive Party did not. A spokesman for the UPP even referred to the sinking of the Cheonan as an "accident."

      The main opposition Democratic United Party has now abandoned its wishy-washy stance and urged North Korea to apologize for attacking the Cheonan. That is the first step in distancing itself from the anachronistic views of pro-North Korean groups.

      Park vowed never to forget the sailors who died aboard the Cheonan and said ruling and opposition parties cannot afford to bicker when it comes to the nation's security. The president's duty is to unify public opinion when the country faces an external threat. If she wants the cooperation of the opposition in defending the nation, she must provide them with up-to-date information and trust them enough to negotiate a grown-up response. If the president and the ruling and opposition parties take the lead and show North Korea their firm resolve not to tolerate any more provocations, the public will follow. That will make the North think twice before launching any further provocations.

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