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Dangerous campaign talk

Mar 11,2017
Seongnam mayor and liberal presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has gone too far in his outspoken and unorthodox statement about security.

He fiercely opposed the plan by the governments of Korea and U.S. to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile system for protection against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats during a TV debate among Democratic Party candidates.

And on Wednesday, Lee went on China’ state-owned CCTV network to declare his opposition to the plan, claiming it does not help national interests.

When a reporter asked if he would overturn the plan if he is elected president, Lee answered yes. CCTV replayed his interview four times that day.

The interview was made on the sidelines of a forum hosted by his campaign for merchants whose business will be hurt by the missile system’s deployment.

The deployment of Thaad was agreed to by the governments of Korea and the U.S. under their 1953 mutual defense pact and 1966 bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The first batch of components, including launch pads, have already arrived at the U.S. military base in Osan.

America’s armed forces have brought in the weapons system for their protection against North Korean nuclear and missile attack.

If South Korea refuses to comply, it would undermine the security alliance the two nations have maintained since the Korean War. If the American forces fear for their lives because the host state disallows arms for their protection, they would obviously pack up and go home.

It is outrageous for an elected public official of this nation to go on Chinese state media to side with the country that has been taking economic revenge on Korean enterprises for going against its wishes and trying to protect itself. It is also unavoidable that China is meddling in the security affairs of another state.

Even an incumbent president would not dare to shake the relationship with the United States for historical, cultural and geopolitical reasons. We can only assume Lee is opposed to Thaad because of anti-U.S. sentiment that blinds him to the system’s worth as a defense against North Korea’s threat.

The opposition cannot confidently ensure a win in the next presidential election if it maintains such a dangerous and one-sided security perspective.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 10, Page 30