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Cementing the alliance

June 14,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Tuesday is a demonstration of his determination to solidify the decades-old alliance in the future. Moon affirmed the pivotal role of the alliance in deterring “enemy attacks” by expressing his appreciation for the two allies’ effort to counter enemies’ provocations. Moon’s visit to the command came one month after his earlier visits to the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last month amid North Korea’s unceasing missile launches.

His visit attracts our attention as it took place when Seoul and Washington are in subtle conflict over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield after the launch of the new government in South Korea. In fact, the liberal administration helped fuel the friction by denouncing the defense ministry’s incorrect report to the president about the number of Thaad launchers in the country and by announcing a plan to conduct an environmental assessment on the deployment. U.S. President Donald Trump’s hurried meeting last Thursday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis at the White House is a manifestation of his disgruntlement over the unexpected reaction by the new Korean government.

We hope Moon’s visit to the Combined Forces Command offers an opportunity to reaffirm the solid alliance ahead of his summit with Trump later this month. In a full meeting at the National Security Council last Thursday, Moon said he will reconfirm the staunch alliance between the two allies in a summit with Trump in Washington.

Thaad has emerged as a hot potato on the Korean Peninsula. After the former Park Geun-hye administration’s decision to deploy the Thaad battery, China imposed economic retaliations on South Korea while the U.S. expresses discontent about the Moon government’s decisions suggestive of its opposition to Thaad. In the meantime, North Korea went so far as to send a drone to the South to take aerial pictures of the Thaad site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang. The drone that fell in South Korea had over ten photos of the site 270 kilometers (168 miles) from the DMZ.

To solve the conundrum, the government must be thoroughly prepared to cope with the North’s provocations on its own.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 30