November 24, 2023 13:02
As expected, North Korea has melodramatically scrapped a military agreement signed with South Korea in 2018 by which it had barely abided for a minute. "We will withdraw the military steps, taken to prevent military tension and conflict in all spheres including ground, sea and air, and deploy more powerful armed forces and new-type military hardware in the region along the military demarcation line," it thundered. The move came in response to the South Korean government scrapping a no-fly zone set up under the agreement after the North launched a space rocket on Tuesday in violation of UN Security Council sanctions.
For North Korea, the agreement never really existed, and it has violated it countless times since it was inked five years ago. The North readied its coastal artillery more than 3,400 times, conducted live-fire exercises in the buffer zone, and in 2022 alone lobbed around 600 artillery rounds toward it in the West Sea. In December that same year, North Korean drones crossed over the inter-Korean border and flew over Seoul.
But for mysterious reasons South Korea felt bound by it. Not only did the South Korean military refrain from firing artillery rounds into the West Sea, but it closed down artillery positions, moved K-9 howitzers from the coast to inland areas to conduct firing drills and spent more than W10 billion transporting equipment to avoid the buffer and no-fly zones (US$1=W1,298). Scrapping the no-fly zone to resume surveillance flights along the border in response to North Korea's provocations should be seen as the minimum defense.
And yet the Minjoo Party, which signed the worthless chit, is accusing the government of "fomenting" tensions. Minjoo Party leader Lee Jae-myung said, "There are concerns of fomenting military provocations or clashes along the demilitarized zone." Even if general elections are approaching and any vague talk of "peace" is likely to appeal to voters, the government cannot compromise national security. Abiding by an agreement that the enemy has blatantly ignored is tantamount to self-harm.
North Korea has no intention of abiding by international law. To Pyongyang, it is merely a means to achieving its own goals and blackmailing others into concessions. The worst way of dealing with such immoral regimes is to trust in their good intentions. Of course the South must continue to try and engage the North peacefully, but it must also maintain a solid defense posture. Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of the deaths of four South Korean civilians on Yeonpyeong Island after North Korea fired 170 artillery rounds at them. North Korea is highly likely to resort to further provocations now the military deal has been scrapped. Seoul must respond firmly so that the North realizes that it has nothing to gain from such behavior any more.
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