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Bending like grass

July 26,2017
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The Ministry of National Defense announced on July 21 that the scheduled electromagnetic wave safety test at the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, would be indefinitely postponed due to the opposition of local groups.

Private organizations, such as the Seongju Committee for the Withdrawal of Thaad, held a news conference on July 20 and argued that the government was deceiving them about the electromagnetic wave test. At first, the groups opposing the radar system demanded the test but changed their position.

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk visited Seongju right after he took office on June 27 and said that he would have local representatives observe the process of measuring electromagnetic waves. But when local groups opposed the test, the ministry decided to postpone it.

During the U.S. visit, President Moon Jae-in repeatedly confirmed that he had no intention of reversing the Thaad deployment. He emphasized that procedural legitimacy is necessary in a democratic nation, and Washington acknowledged such a need.

However, consistency in terms of policy execution is lacking when it comes to Moon’s international promises.

The Thaad launchers were first deployed four months ago. It is unclear how the environmental impact evaluation that the new administration is requesting will proceed.

Can the evaluation be conducted objectively even after the electromagnetic wave test has been delayed? Some unnecessarily question whether the Moon administration is delaying the Thaad deployment because of local sentiment.

Confusion related to the Thaad deployment will lead to a growing gap in the Korea-U.S. alliance. According to a diplomatic source, U.S. officials complained that Korean policymakers have been making inconsistent comments concerning Thaad, and they therefore do not appear to be reliable.

China also may take an alarming turn by increasing pressure on South Korea after considering an exit strategy in case of enforcement of the Thaad deployment.

The process of securing procedural legitimacy based on the law is necessary here. The procedure should be swift and consistent. If the government bends too easily to one side, the procedural legitimacy will be compromised. The government should be firm as an oak.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 24, Page 29

*The author is a political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JEONG YONG-SOO