November 27, 2019 13:45
The Joint Chiefs of Staff claim they detected "unidentified" noises on Nov. 23 but were only able to pinpoint them as coming from North Korean coastal artillery when they saw North Korean state media reports two days later.
In other words, soldiers tasked with defending the nation heard something go "boom" but did not bother to inquire what it was, sophisticated though their equipment allegedly is. Or did they have another reason to keep quiet? The day marked the ninth anniversary of the deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea, while Changrin islet, where the North conducted the artillery drill is only 18 km away from the Northern Limit Line or de facto maritime border separating the two Koreas. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was even visiting the artillery base when the rounds were fired.
That surely means the South Korean military should have been extra vigilant about the movements in the North. But instead it merely awoke briefly from its slumber, blinked groggily into the bushes, and went straight back to sleep. If that story is true, national security has a serious problem. Military officials have been telling us that all is quiet on the northern front, even though North Korea did not seal its coastal artillery after a military agreement signed in September last year pledging to ease cross-border tensions. Complacency does not begin to cover it.
But what if top military brass deliberately tried to hide the North's latest provocation? The military said it was unable to determine the direction, impact point and number of artillery rounds fired by the North. Really, not even the direction, which would take only two ears to produce stereophonic sound, or the number, which would require 10 digits to count on? Two months ago, President Moon Jae-in confidently claimed that North Korea is abiding conscientiously by the military agreement and tried hard to lure Kim to the special Korea-ASEAN summit in Busan. Instead Kim snubbed him and effectively scrapped the military agreement. Perhaps the government was too embarrassed to reveal that.
Lies and secrecy are becoming a habit. The recent repatriation of two North Korean defectors, who may have murdered the entire crew of their fishing boat, became known only after South Korean media accidentally caught a text message about it on an official’s phone. Cheong Wa Dae and the military also lied when they said North Korea's mobile ICBM launchers were inoperable, even though photographs proved otherwise. Nobody would be surprised if they deemed even this recent story of howling incompetence preferable to the truth.
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