A Strong Defense Posture
Korea-U.S. alliance as cornerstone of our national security; diplomatic efforts must continue to make China and Russia strategic companions
Rep. Won Yoo-chul, chairman of the
National Defense Committee of the
Rep. Won Yoo-chul, chairman of the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly, said in an interview that Korea has to use both dialogue and pressure to deal with North Korea and must maintain solid relations with both the United States and Japan. "We also should try to maintain diplomatic policies to make both China and Russia our strategic companions with cooperation from both the United States and Japan to maintain safe and stable national security. But most of all, we have to strengthen our national defense posture with the lessons learned from the sinking of the Cheonan patrol boat and North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island," Won said.
Following are what Chairman Won had to say in the interview:
Question: What will be some of the key issues this year for the committee to take care of?
Answer: Most of all, it will be to strengthen our national defense posture with the lessons we learned from the sinking of the Cheonan patrol boat and the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea by thoroughly checking the defense posture of our armed forces. We have to update "National Defense 2020," a blue print for the development of our military in the future taking into account the two North Korean military infringements on the South.
We have to also see that the relocation of U.S. military forces stationed in Korea is completed on schedule without a hitch, as the future of the Korea-U.S. alliance depends on it. We also have to complete legislation concerning the procurement of research and development systems, key elements for strengthening our military's firepower. Also as important are revisions to laws regarding reimbursement of damages to civilians from military facilities and related noises, which are in the interest of the people.
Q: More than anything else, the public interest in the reform of our military's national defense is very high. What direction do you think national defense reform should be headed?
A: We at the parliament are trying to legislate "National Defense 2020" so that it will have continuity as the blue print for the long-term development of our military. But we cannot change the reform of military barrack culture, the reform of national defense management system aimed at low and high effects, the balanced development of all three armed forces, the building of military infrastructure and the war power system in line with modern warfare patterns.
We also feel that we have learned such tremendous lessons from the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of the Cheonan patrol boat that we have to be not only ready for a North Korean attack against the South, but also for sneak attacks and regional offenses which are always possible and a continuous threat.
The situation as such, the blue print for long-term military reform and our military's war power structure should be pursued consistently and, at the same time, supplement our preparedness for diverse dangers by strengthening the capability for precision attacks and the search system.
Q: How do you think our military should proceed now that the security of the Korean Peninsula is endangered in the aftermath of the Cheonan patrol boat sinking and the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island?
A: The defense of our sovereignty and territory, safeguarding national life and property are the basic responsibilities of our military. Nothing can stand in the way of these sacred duties including politics, and they can be implemented only from a military viewpoint with military principles as firmly as they can. On Dec. 20, artillery drills off Yeonpyeong Island showed off our military readiness to defend our territorial rights to the world, but we can never tell when North Korea may engage in another sneak attack in the future, aiming at our vulnerable spots.
Therefore, we have to be not only spiritually armed, but also be prepared for various unexpected and diverse situations and prevent their attacks before they occur by strengthening our readiness perfectly. But if North Korea still launches sneak attacks on us, we must have the capacity to meet the challenges with stern countermeasures by thoroughly decimating the areas from where the attacks were launched so that they will never attack us again so that our people can go about their business in comfort.
Q: How do you think we should go about solving inter-Korean relations where military tension is escalating?
A: North Korea's nuclear threat continues to rise with the possibility of an attack on the South remains still there. We have to maintain a firm defensive posture militarily and deal with it firmly and on principle. But on the other hand, we have to employ diplomatic means to help the North open up and become a responsible member of international society, relying on the steadfast Korea-U.S. alliance. We have to adopt a two-track strategy of dialogue and pressure on the North to mitigate the rising tension on the Korean Peninsula.
In this regard, we have to take notice of North Korea's appeasing gesture of inviting New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to Pyongyang and inviting the IAEA to send its mission to inspect its nuclear facilities, including uranium enrichment facilities, although it expressed a very hostile reaction to our naval artillery drills in the sea off Yeonpyeong Island with threats to retaliate.
We have to make sure if the North's change truly means dialogue in view of the fact that the North in the past secured economic benefits ultimately through peaceful dialogue that they extricated from the South with abrupt actions and challenges. We don't yet know what their true intentions are, but we have to take advantage of the hot and cold two-side strategy. In this connection, we proposed a meeting of inter-Korean defense ministers in September 2010.
Q: What do you think we should do to cope with the rapidly moving security situation in Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula in particular in the areas of diplomacy and security?
A: The Korean Peninsula is geopolitically surrounded by four strong nations, a fact that cannot be avoided. South Korea is at odds militarily with North Korea, which eventually will be reunited, but it is the most war-provoking nation in the world despite having neighbors such as Japan, China and Russia.
The confrontation in Northeast Asia between Korea, the United States and Japan on one side and North Korea, China and Russia on the other, has been rising sharply since the torpedo sinking of the Cheonan patrol boat and North KoreaOs shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
When you look at the situation coolly, the strongest base from which to defend ourselves against threats of nuclear weapons and missiles from North Korea is the U.S. power to curtail such expansionary threats. The Korea-U.S. alliance will also be a force to prevent China from taking control of the North when it collapses suddenly under its Northeast Build-up Plan along with the persuasion of allied countries in our efforts to lead to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
Therefore, we have to use security diplomacy such as the six-party talks, and at the same time, make the strengthening of the Korea-U.S. alliance as the top priority. Based on the strong alliance with the United States, we have to manage well the ties among Korea, the U.S. and Japan. I see diplomatic effort to work continuously for non-hostile relations with China and Russia as the core element of our security diplomacy.
Both China and Russia asked for the suspension of our military drills off Yeonpyeong Island and called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to our disappointment. But we cannot afford to forsake our diplomatic efforts to forge a strategic companionship relationship with those two countries.
Q: The chairman of the National Defense Committee has an enormous responsibility with regard to our military and our countryOs security matters. What do you have to say to our military officers and soldiers manning the frontlines of our security as of now and what do you want to say to the people?
A: It is due to your devotion and sacrifices that the Republic of Korea is being defended against all kinds of aggression, and your parents and brothers and sisters can safely go about their work. I would like to thank you for your labor and suffering on this occasion. As chairman of the National Defense Committee, I would like to go on record as the committee chairman who achieved a lot toward improving welfare and encouraging the military spirit and promise to be a cheerleader toward that effort by doing my best.
I hope you will understand well that the last guard post for our national defense is our military forces and we must trust and support them and participate in the effort to bind our nation together as one. The military alone cannot make our security strong. The government, military and the people should be of one mind to keep our nation secure. Let become united in our national opinions in order to keep our nation stable and safe. nw