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Communication gap

Feb 02,2018
The dropping of Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor, as nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to South Korea reveals what has been going on in the Trump administration over the option of a so-called “bloody nose strike,” a limited strike on North Korea that would not lead to a full-scale war. The scenario, if carried out, will surely cause a disaster for us.

According to the Financial Times, Cha, a hardliner toward the North, was dumped after he showed a skeptical reaction to the question of whether he would be ready to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Americans in the South in case of a U.S. attack. A non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) should be finished before the launch of a strike. Otherwise, about 230,000 U.S. citizens in South Korea could fall victim to North Korea’s apparent counterattacks. Therefore, the question is the same as asking Cha if he is willing to accept a military strike by America. After Cha opposed the military option, citing the dangers involved, he was sent packing.

When we take into account news reports about his dropping and other facts, the Trump administration appears to be considering the hawkish option more seriously than expected. In interviews with the Korean press, U.S. security and diplomatic experts say that the United States is discussing the strike in detail. At a recent hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dennis Blair, a former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the Obama administration, even insisted on launching a limited strike on North Korea if it provokes again.

The ongoing preparations for a large military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the North Korean Army on Feb. 8 — just a day before the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics — will likely stoke the argument for a strike. On Jan. 3, the State Department underscored its opposition to the parade. But instead of canceling the event, the North will likely display its advanced weaponry. In that case, the argument for a strike will gain momentum, not to mention the parade throwing cold water on the Games. We are deeply concerned about the possibility.

A lack of communications between Seoul and Washington under such volatile situation rings alarms about the security of our nation. Our Foreign Ministry was not officially notified of Cha’s removal. It is lamentable that the Moon Jae-in administration was not even aware of his dropping despite the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula.

If such a lack of communication continues, no one knows if or when the United States may strike North Korea — perhaps without even informing us. Our government must maintain close communication with the Trump administration if it really does not want to be ignored at times of true peril.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 2, Page 30