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Peace is ensured by power

July 30,2019
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A fleet of ROK Air Force F-15Ks fly over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea. After five military aircraft, including a reconnaissance plane and bombers from China and Russia, violated our air defense identification zone near Dokdo on July 23, F-15Ks fired 360 rounds at them as a warning. [AP/YONHAP]
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Chun Young-gi
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“It is wrong to think that a poor country cannot defeat a rich country in war,” said Shin Won-sik, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Actually, it is the opposite. When you look at history, hogs of prosperous countries were often eaten by wolves of the moorland.”

In ancient Greece, Athens — the most prosperous, democratic and populous state — lost to Sparta, a closed, military state. In medieval China, the Song Dynasty (960-1279), which enjoyed the best civilization and agriculture, tried to maintain peace and prosperity by offering treasure to nomadic tribes armed with skilled soldiers and horses. Eventually, it collapsed due to the depletion of its state coffers and internal conflicts.

Last week, North Korea, Russia and China conducted a series of military provocations against South Korea, while Japan did not miss the opportunity to tweak South Korea either. Meanwhile, its ally the United States did nothing to support South Korea. Many probably felt fearful that South Korea has become a lost child in the international community. Although our air space was violated for the first time since the Korea War truce in 1953, President Moon Jae-in did not even host a National Security Council meeting, and the defense minister remains silent.

Kim Jong-un — the leader of one of the poorest nations in the world — threatened the president of its 10th largest economy. “South Korea must not make a mistake of ignoring the warning from Pyongyang, however offending it may be,” North Korea warned. Kim also threatened the South Korean leader to “stop such suicidal acts as the introduction of sophisticated weapons and military exercises after understanding the danger they will bring,” said the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim’s remarks, disclosed by the KCNA on Friday, had some grounds. The North’s two new short-range ballistic missiles — successfully tested from Wonsan on its east coast on Thursday — have the characteristics of eccentric flight, which cannot be tracked and intercepted by missiles deployed in South Korea.

The Korean military reportedly failed to accurately analyze the range of the new missiles and made corrections twice due to their aberrant trajectories. Sources said the military was able to conclude that the missiles had a range of 600 kilometers (373 miles) thanks to information offered by Japan under the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) — a bilateral military intelligence-sharing agreement — with Tokyo.

The United States seemed to not care how South Korea would respond to Kim’s armed demonstrations toward the South. U.S. President Donald Trump brushed off the launches by saying that North Korea only tested “small missiles,” and U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo revealed that Kim promised Trump during their June 30 meeting in Panmunjom that he would suspend nuclear tests and mid- and long-range ballistic missiles.

That sounds like Washington has accepted Pyongyang’s short-range missile tests. Even though ballistic missile launches are clearly in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, Washington is doing nothing as the missiles North Korea launched are short-range.

Yet we saw a fortunate incident. A 30-year-old Air Force captain calmly approached a Russian airborne warning and control system (Awacs) plane — which violated our airspace over the Dokdo islets twice for seven minutes — and perfectly performed his mission to stop the suspicious flight and fired warning shots at the aircraft.

That was possible thanks to his countless drills, thorough reference to manuals and communication with his fleet members and the ground control center. And yet, the captain was alone in the actual engagement to fire at the Russian aircraft in a critical moment that could have cost lives. Only his strong determination not to yield even an inch of our airspace to the enemy led to his successful mission.
We are proud of the pilots of the 18 fighter jets that faithfully took part in the airborne confrontation over Dokdo Island. We want to know their faces. Peace is protected by power, not words.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 29, Page 30