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Control in times of crisis

Apr 13,2017
The Korean Peninsula has been swept up in war-like tensions as U.S. strategic assets surround the region. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its battle group, which was on the way to Australia after a military drill here last month, has made a detour and is making its way back towards the peninsula, joining another strike group, the USS Ronald Reagan and the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard.

Washington has also beefed up its stealth aircraft fleet by another 100, adding 30 F-22 and F-35B jets and 60 F/A-18 fighters to a U.S. base in Japan. Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea, won’t be flying to Washington to attend the U.S. congressional military hearing planned for April 24-26. The posture coincides with U.S. President Donald Trump’s order to his National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to prepare for “a full range of options” in regards to the possibility of a sixth nuclear test or a ballistic missile launch by the North this month.

Seoul officials emphasized that the U.S. move is a strategy to show force, not as readiness for a preemptive strike on North Korean missile and nuclear facilities. They said Washington was showing its muscles to warn Pyongyang against any further provocation. A strike on North Korea is not just a military action. It demands understanding and cooperation from Tokyo and Beijing.

What is imperative is that Seoul ensures that Washington does nothing without consulting it first on every step and any plan. The government must closely work with Washington to control the tensions in the Korean Peninsula. The two must move as one based on the rock-solid principle that South Korean interests come first in order to appease public anxiety. The Seoul-Washington alliance must stay intact and consistent on both military and diplomatic options.

Tough actions are necessary to address North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile threats. But the U.S. must not forget that the Korean capital is just across the border. We must demonstrate that we are in control in times of crisis in the Korean Peninsula.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, Page 30