[Int'l workshop for Peace&Disarmament] Military and security strategy of South Korea and Civil Society Priorities(Taeho Lee)
- 2010.11.24 (15:49:00)
- 첨부 2
Session 1. Security Policies and Civil Priorities in the Asia-Pacific Region
before and after Chonan Incident
The recent military strategy and arms build-up of South Korea go even beyond the rational level usually given by historical realist argument of ‘no defense without might’. In recent years, South Korea’s military strategy has gone from defense-oriented one to increasingly offensive one. Particularly after the Chonan Incident, its offensive nature has become even more acute.
The characteristics of the recent military and security strategies of South Korea can be summarized as exaggeration of North Korea’s threat, more offensive military counter plans, extention of the ROK-US alliance, increase in overseas military interventions under the pretext of contributory diplomacy, more double-standards in nuclear policies, and expansion of export-oriented weapons industry. These are also geared to blind support and copy of the US’s global hegemonic military strategy.
2. Military tension in Korea after the Chonan Incident
Until to date, there are more conjectures than facts in identifying the cause of the sinking of the naval ship Chonan on March 26 this year near the North Limit Line of the West Sea (the Yellow Sea). The government of South Korea brought this case to the UN, but failed to get a UN judgment on North Korea responsibility in the sinking. The ‘decisive evidences’ claimed by the Ministry of Defense of South Korea as a proof of North Korea’s attack on the ship has created decisive criticism and skepticism among experts here and abroad. Despite the unsettled debate on the unfounded cause, the government of South Korea has used this case as a proof of North Korea’s military readiness to attack and her threat of asymmetrical warfare, in order to insist on the need of stronger deterrence capability.
Since July this year when ROK and US conducted a joint military exercise in the East and West Seas that included a nuclear carrier, the two governments have conducted altogether four joint military exercises, the last one being the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) exercise in October. Along with them, the two governments have openly indicated a number of military operation plans that are highly offensive such as landing operation into North Korea in case of an emergency and capture plan for the highest rank leaders of North Korea. Such approaches to North Korea are to invite a boomerang of new military conflicts. It is not only North Korea that reacts to it in a heated way, but also China showing a harsh reaction unlike in the past. During the joint exercise in the West Sea last August, China reacted to it with live ammunition gunshots.
At the same time, as the US showed full diplomatic and military support to the alleged findings of South Korean government on Chonan case, the ROK-US military alliance is stronger than ever before. This also serves as a stimulating and pushing factor for revitalizing the Japan-US alliance that recently showed some signs of minute cracks. Using the Chonan incident, the US succeeded in making the Democratic Party of Japan to change its electoral commitment of relocating Futenma Air Base out of Okinawa Prefecture. A closer military cooperation between Japan and South Korea is also under way. Four officers of the Self-Defense Force of Japan participated in the ROK-US joint naval exercise conducted in last July in the East Sea.
The Chonan incident is also being used as a turning point for a package deal over accumulated, unsettled issues between South Korea and the US. For example, for the US ‘accepting’ South Korea’s request to postpone the return of the wartime operation command authority (from the US to South Korea) to 2015, South Korea will extend the limit period of appropriation of South Korea’s payment of defense expenses for the US. South Korea will also in return agree to ‘revise’ terms of negotiation for the free trade agreement between the two countries, send troops to Afghanistan, and impose a sanction against Iran. The US has expressed reservation only to the postponement of the return of the operation authority in view of the so-called security vacuum created by the Chonan incident.
The two governments adopted a joint statement in the 42nd ROK-US Annual Security Consultative Meeting in October this year, the first one since the Chonan incident. It reaffirms the recent keynote on fortified offensives. The two ministers of defense decided, (1) to solidify readiness for possible limited provocation by North Korea or an emergency situation in North Korea, by officially indicating ‘unstable state’ in North Korea, (2) to newly establish a ‘policy committee for deterring diffusion’ and strengthen deterrence by the existing nuclear umbrella, conventional destroy capability and missile defense capability, (3) reaffirm the summit agreement of the two countries to build the US-ROK alliance into a comprehensive strategic alliance of bilateral, regional and global scales, and to promote ‘cooperation between the US and ROK to address a wide range of global security challenges’. Immediately after this meeting, defense minister Kim Tae-young made a row in the National Assembly by implying a decision to participate in the MD (the US’s global missile defense) plan.
Since the Chonan incident, the governments of South Korea and the US are showing the closest military and diplomatic ties since the end of the Cold War. In parallel, North Korea and China are getting closer even beyond the traditionally close ties. On the other hand, the ROK-China relations are lowest in the opposite since opening the doors to each other. With possible resumption of the six-party talk as an exception, the overall military-security situation in Northeast Asia now resembles that during the Cold War period.
3. The So-called ‘North Korea’s Asymmetrical Threat’ and South Korea’s Offensive Arms Build-up
In May this year, President Lee Myongbak ordered to set up a comprehensive review council on national security situation. In July, the council gave the President a report of recommendations to improve the national security in the four directions; (1) from passive defense strategy (retaliation after an attack by enemy) to active deterrence strategy (identification of signs of attack and taking measures before actual attack), (2) from the military capability through the standing army and divided armed forces to that of integrated capability and utilizing private expertise, (3) from prioritizing augmentation of high-tech military capability to counter potential threat to parallel augmentation of military capability to counter immanent threats such as North Korea’s asymmetrical threat, and (4) to cancel the plan to reduce conscript service period to 18 months by 2015 and maintain 22 months in order to acquire an optimum level of military force.
For 2011, the government submitted to the National Assembly a budget plan of USD 28.5 billion (KRW 3.1 trillion) for the defense. This is an increase of 5.8% from 2010, surpassing the expected growth rate of 5.0%. This is the first time ever to have a military budget over KRW 3 trillion. As a result, we will continue to see a rapid increase of military budget in South Korea, which was on the big rise from Roh Moo-hyon’s time (for “Cooperative Independent Defense”) and less so at the beginning of Lee Myongbak’s government.
The most prominent feature in the 2011 defense budget is reinforcement of the military capability to counter infiltration and limited provocation, and enhancement of defense capability to counter asymmetrical threats. This is in the same line as what has been stressed since the Chonan incident. Many questions unanswered in the result of investigation of the case notwithstanding, the Ministry of Defense is lacking minimum justification or rational in trying to build up arms vis-à-vis North Korea’s asymmetrical threat.
An asymmetrical threat is usually understood to arise when the party lower in military power or defense budget acquires a capability to exert a military impact on the other party not on the whole but to a limited aspect in an asymmetrical ratio. Therefore, were North Korean threat to be seen as an asymmetrical one, it would mean that South Korea’s conventional military power and defense budget are assumed to be far above those of North Korea. This is in the same line with the fact that ROK-US joint military exercises began to assume, since the Chonan incident, collapse of North Korean regime or occupation of North Korea after a limited warfare. Thus, if the Ministry of Defense began to think that main threats were posed by North Korea’s provoking a limited warfare or its asymmetrical threat, it must have identified lessening of other kind of threats such as threat of total warfare and North Korea’s capability to launch such warfare. This means the ministry should have begun to reduce South Korea’s military capability to counter the other kind of threats. For examples, there must be possible arms reduction in the over-sized land forces, excessive number of officers and armored vehicles, and in the overwhelmingly superior naval and air power.
On the contrary, the 2011 budget aims to add more offense in the existing deterrence strategy, build up high-tech military power against threats from neighboring countries, increase in parallel military power to counter ‘current North Korean threat’, and strengthen integrated operation of forces while maintaining the existing oversized land force. Though the recommendations of the Presidential security review council are not officially adopted yet, the 2011 budget plan largely corresponds to them.
2011 defense budget plan will allow introduction of all high-tech military equipments and weapons that the military has been demanding so far – early warning radar system for ballistic missiles, next generation guided weapons, F-15K and FA-50 airplanes, next generation fighter jets, Aegis III ships, airborne early warning and control airplanes, and high-altitude UAVs, among others. This comes in addition to the purchase of weapons and investment under the heading of ‘military structural adjustment’ and ‘securing complete manifestation of the existing military power’, such as investment for the power of land force, introduction of various advanced armored vehicles. This would be a spending for total warfare readiness, long debated for its excess and uselessness.
4. The Actual Military Powers of North and South Koreas and Plans for North Korea’s Emergency Situation
It is an open secret that South Korea stands overwhelmingly superior over North Korea in its defense budget and military power. According to SIPRI, South Korea’s defense budget has increase from USD 13.7 billion in 1990 to USD 27.1 billion in 2009, showing a 197 percent increase (at 2008 exchange rate). This is 66 percent higher than the 131 percent increase in the same period of the US defense budget albeit all the heat over the War on Terror since 2001. The cumulative total military spending from 1994 to 2007 is USD 200 billion for South Korea and USD 2.15 billion for North Korea, more than 9 to 1 in ratio. In 2009, South Korea’s military spending was almost the size of the total GDP of North Korea, USD 27.8 billion. It will surpass the total GDP of North Korea in 2011. GNI of South Korea is more than 36 times that of North Korea as of 2007.
In August 2009, the National Intelligence Agency asked KIDA (Korea Institute for Defense Analysis) to do an evaluation on military power by a presidential order. According to the evaluation, South Korean military power is about 10 percent superior to that of North Korea without the US forces taken into account. If the US forces are taken into consideration, South Korea was overwhelmingly superior over North Korea in military strengths. This was the first official recognition of South Korea’s superiority, but the military establishments and those in the government have long been aware that even such an evaluation is too generous in overestimating North Korea’s military capability. This point is clearly shown in the course of change of military strategies towards North by South.
According to the Middle Phase Defense Plan of 1991, South Korea was to form independent defense strategy by 1996, and independent deterrence strategy by 2006, and in particular to acquire offense capability from 2002 that includes strategic retaliation capability. Therefore, it was not new when the presidential security review council recommended a shift from passive defense to active deterrence. This is adding a final push to or finalizing what the Ministry of Defense has pushed for since the mid-nineties.
Under Lee Myongbak, the military strategy is becoming increasingly offensive. Since 2008 Autumn to 2009 Autumn, South Korea and the US have developed military intervention plans to North Korea in case of an emergency, developing the conceptual plan of Operation Plan 5029 into an actual operation plan.
It is believed that such intervention plans have gained many details at this year’s security consultation meeting of the two countries. The content of the newly formulated Operation Plan 5015 has not been disclosed yet. However, one can gather from various indications disclosed by the US-ROK Combined Command that this new plan will have integrated and augmented the existing intervention plans 5026 and 5027. It is anticipated that the new plan sets for direct military occupation of North Korea such as arrest of leaders, occupation of military and administrative institutions, and conduct of stabilization operations in North Korea after crossing the cease-fire line even in the absence of a total war or direct armed threat, but in the case of an ‘emergency’.
In fact, a US special unit for elimination of weapons of mass destruction participated in the US-ROK joint exercise of March 2010, named Key Resolve/Eagle Exercise. This assumed that US would directly control such operations as WMD elimination while South Korea would do stabilization operations. Similarly, the Ulji Freedom Guardian Exercise, which was in the past usually a computerized command post exercise (CPX) to counter total warfare, was conducted to counter asymmetrical provocations of North Korea such as those using nuclear weapons and missiles, submarines and special forces at NLL (north limit line) and MDL (military demarcation line). In other words, CPX exercise was also conducted as a ‘crisis management operation’ in view of actual limited provocations by North Korea.
There is another emergency plan code-named ‘Revival’ that includes administrative measures to govern North Korea in case of its collapse. We deduce that the same or similar operation plan was indeed a part of the Ulji Freedom Guardian Exercise of last August as it mobilized some 400 thousands civil servants of South Korean central and local governments.
These highly offensive plans are not only in violation of the ‘defense’ purported ROK-US Mutual Defense Agreement, but can also be taken as acts of aggression in the international law. They resonate with George W. Bush’s aggressive, reconstruction plan for the so-called rogue states.
The frequented concepts in the new plans such as ‘strategic retaliation capability’ and ‘active deterrence strategy’ all assume absolute military superiority over North Korea. It assumes total defense and total offense at the same time. However, there is no such thing as absolute superiority. Military plans geared to absolute deterrence will trigger military insecurity in North Korea, rather than frustration, and eventually lead to other kinds of asymmetrical capabilities such as development of irregular, destructive capabilities. North Korea’s efforts in nuclear and missile programmes and guerilla tactics fall into this category. And this is another typical, man-made security dilemma.
5. Regionalization and Globalization of the ROK-US Military Alliance
In April 2008, Presidents Lee Myongbak and George W. Bush announced in their first summit meeting in Washington, “we have come to a consensus to develop the current ROK-US alliance into a ‘21st Century Strategic Alliance’ that contributes to global peace in accordance with the newly changed international situation and security demand.” This agreement was later reconfirmed in Lee’s meeting with Barrack Obama, and further developed in details by the joint statement issued at the ROK-US Annual Security Consultation Meeting in 2010. The ROK-US alliance is on the move to become a regional and global alliance.
In Autumn 2009, South Korean government announced its decision to re-dispatch a 400-strong troop to Afghanistan as a part of PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) under ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). Korean troops have been sent and stationed in Afghanistan from 2002 until their withdrawal in 2007. South Korea has also sent the third largest troop to Iraq. The PRT has been accused of justifying the foreign occupation and militarizing aid in the name of reconstruction. South Korea also sent troops to the so-called anti-terror allied forces in the Arabian Sea. In 2009, South Korean military sent a destroyer to join CFMCC (Combined Forces Maritime Component Command) led by the US 5th Fleet. The troops of the destroyer, called the Blue Sea Unit, was officially given the objective of MSO (Maritime Security Operation) that included intercepting pirates and preventing terrorism. The CFMCC was the force organized as a part of the US-led War on Terror after the September 11th Incident.
In 2009, the National Assembly has passed a bill on peace keeping operation, agreeing to the government’s claim on contribution to the international community. The key points of the law are to simplify the authorization procedures for PKO and establish a special forces specializing in PKO. However, since the legislation, the Ministry of Defense is not only operating PKO special forces but also designated existing forces to be in charge of overseas dispatch and operation. The PKO special forces is to be part of the regular forces in charge of overseas dispatch and operation. As in the cases of overseas dispatch in the past, the main rationale is to train the military in real battle situation.
The Korean military has been sent to areas directly related to the US interest such as Lebanon and Haiti. It also participates in the annual, massive landing exercise named Cobra Gold in Thailand, which is led by the US and participated by the US allies in the region such as Japan, Australia and the Republic of the Philippines. The rationale is to train the Korean military in overseas stabilization operations and PKO. The Cobra Gold Exercise is basically stabilization training despite some elements of disaster relief and humanitarian aid in it.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Defense and the Navy are constructing a giant naval base in the southwestern part of Jeju Island. The given rationale is to secure marine transport route and provide marine security. The base, when completed, will be used as the home port for the 7th Mobile Fleet, a pride of the South Korean Navy for its ‘oceanic naval capability’. Formed at the beginning of 2010, the 7th Fleet has a newest Aegis ship, six destroyers, a transport ship of a semi-carrier size and submarines. By 2012, an additional Aegis ship will join the fleet. According to the Navy, this fleet will be in charge of guarding oil imports and export routes. However, the concept of ‘oceanic navy’ indicates capability to control and rule the deep sea. An interest in the sea control in the West Pacific region implies running into the regional hegemonic game between China and the US. It is anticipated that the US nuclear submarines, carriers and ships equipped with missile defense weapons will also anchor and embark in the Jeju naval base. China has given sensitive reaction to the construction of this base.
Overseas dispatches and long-distance military projections mentioned so far all converge to a crucial development, that the ‘strategic flexibility’ employed by the US forces in Korea is not confined to US forces but already extends to the whole ROK-US allied forces. South Korean troops are drawn to overseas operations and to deep sea along with the US military strategy to draw more allies into supplementing the weakening global hegemony of the US today. This move has implicated peoples in Northeast Asia and many other peoples of the world into the global hegemonic competition and related armed conflicts.
The ROK-US Mutual Defense Agreement limits its mandate to the defense against threats arising in the Pacific to the territory of either of the countries. Any activity of military nature that goes beyond this mandate is in violation of the agreement. More fundamentally, it violates the peace clause in Article 5 of the Constitution of ROK that stipulates, “The Republic of Korea shall endeavor to maintain international peace and shall renounce any war of aggression. The national Armed Forces shall be charged with the sacred mission of national security and the defense of the land and their political neutrality shall be observed.”
6. Arms Exports and Army Exports
Pressed by massive state-led construction projects and social pressure for expanded welfare, Lee’ government wanted to remove bubbles in the military spending by reforming corruption and inefficiency in the defense sectors. The overinvested defense industries of South Korea have already shown lax and insolvent operations, being dependent on the preferential treatment given by the government for long. The weapons and equipments they produce have shown frequent breakdowns and defects as well as poor export rates.
On October 19th, the Presidential Future Planning Committee submitted its report ‘Strategy for Industrial Development and Job Creation towards Defense Advancement’, in which it recommended a main goal and strategy of making South Korea one of the 7th largest defense export countries of the world by transforming the defense industry from domestic market orientation to export orientation and from state operation to privatization. The aim was to “achieve an annual production of USD 10 billion and an annual export of 4 billion in defense industry by 2020 so that at least 10 defense corporations will fall in the class of world top 100 defense corporations.” In other words, the defense industry is to become a major export sector.
There is not very much new in this repeated aspiration in the government. But, with the President self-claiming to be a CEO of the country, this new plan is much more economically oriented. Instead of the wild idea of developing high-tech weapons by domestic technology, the new plan aims to have state support for development of core technologies only, and open the acquisition of other equipments and weapons from overseas market. At the same time, the government will support the defense sector to focus on price competitiveness and to privatize and expand the size of production so that they can succeed in the export market. The Future Planning Committee states, “the Government will diversify defense industrial export market to Africa and Asia, beyond the current concentration in the US and Middle East… and consider sending troops to the countries importing our defense products in order to enhance the export.”
Such policy orientation has been already identified in 2009 when South Korea made a deal to export a nuclear power plan to the United Arab Emirates. President Lee led the negotiations himself and included in the deal a promise to send Korean troops to the country in order to provide training to the military owned by the hereditary royal power of UAE and to protect the power plant. The bill to send a 150-strong unit special forces is now submitted to the National Assembly as of November 2010. This is the first time to plan to send a troop to a non-conflict region.
In summary, the South Korean government plans to export solid and cheap weapons to any conflict zones in the world according to local needs and to send troops to a foreign country when needed for arms sales or military support. And this is publicly publicized as ‘attractive job’ creation. It is not known at all if the government has given any due ethical considerations in the policy making. South Korea is already known as a major production and export base for one of the most inhumane weapons, cluster bombs. It is neither a party to the International Mine Ban Treaty. Such inhumane weapons along with other conventional small weapons kill and damage civilians on the ground more than high-tech weapons. It is surprising to see all this and to see at the same time that South Korea is the presiding country in G20 that proposed poverty eradication and support for economic development of underdeveloped countries as a main agenda of the meeting. Sending troops comprised of national conscripts for economic benefits or for profit making of private corporations is not only unethical but also in violation of the Constitution.
7. Double Standards in Nuclear Policies
After the second nuclear weapon test, the six-party talk has not resumed. Since the Chonan incident, Lee Myongbak’s government has stressed that North Korea policies should responsibility of the attack and highlighted readiness to emergency situations in North Korea, in line with the so-called ‘strategic patience’. Along the way, it seems that even the existing priority of ‘denuclearization first’ has been abandoned. Despite the recent, slight opening of the talk between two Koreas through sending rice to north and holding family reunions, it is still unclear if South Korean government can easily escape from its own trap after having trumpeted instability and aggressiveness of North Korea.
The attitudes of neighboring governments are not in favor of talks either. The military mistrust and issues of tension are still running deep between ROK-US and China-DPRK since the incident of Chonanham. The US may feel it could gain more by having immediate honey-moon with Lee’s South Korea than by engaging in a difficult and uncertain negotiation with North Korea. China and North Korea may be thinking in the same way.
It is a burden to the other member states of the six-party talk that North Korea considers itself a nuclear power state since the second test and demands other states to consider North Korea in that manner. North Korea disclosed its memorandum on nuclear policy on 21st April, which well outlines the terms of negotiations it wants in details. The key point is that it will negotiate on nuclear disarmament as a nuclear power state. The memorandum also stated no-strike policy to non-nuclear states and no-preemptive nuclear attack policy. The memorandum seems to justify the view that North Korea never wanted to abandon its nuclear arsenal in the first place, and will never do either. No matter which countries recognize North Korea as a nuclear power or not, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need new terms of negotiations if we want North Korea back to the table.
A careful reading of the memorandum, however, will show that it is not easy to refute any of the points in it except the claim that North Korea should be treated as a nuclear power. This is because the unilateral, double-standard nuclear policy employed by the US and South Korea did, to a certain extent, provide rational for North Korea’s ‘nuclear deterrence.’ During the nineties, the overall stance of the government and citizens in South Korea was to promote reconciliation and reform relationship with neighboring countries. Relationship became normalized between South Korea and China, and later with Russia. By 2002, comprehensive agreement has been made between North and South Koreas, North Korea and Japan, and North Korea and the US to improve relationship. The inter-Korea summit of 2000, the DPRK-US communiqué of 2000, and the DPRK-Japan summit of 2002 were cornerstones for the change. However, Bush Administration broke its commitment of 2000 agreements, and began to label North Korea as an axis of evil and declared a policy of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons. This opened the gate for military deterrence and nuclear deterrence, to nullifying previous efforts to improve relationship.
The six-party talks bore some progress despite such a set-back, such and September 19th Joint Statement (2005) and February 13th Agreement (2007), but eventually to be discarded in total. The responsibility for non-fulfillment of the agreements lies not only on North Korea, but also substantially on South Korea and the US. The contradictory actions of the two governments served as obstacles to diplomatic solution of the North Korea’s nuclear issue, such as the freeze measure taken by the US right after the September 19th agreement, the freeze of North Korea’s assets in a bank (BDA) in Macao, and rumors spread by South Korean government indicating health crisis of Kim Jong-il while North Korea was conducting nuclear disablement work. The latter action resulted in passive turn in the North Korea policies in South Korea, Japan and the US.
At the moment, South Korean government demands disablement of the North Korea’s nuclear fuel processing while working towards building a nuclear fuel processing facilities in South Korea, thereby, towards having a complete nuclear fuel cycle. For this end, Lee Myongbak’s government has already signed with India for reaching an agreement and is working to revise the ROK-US agreement with regard to nuclear energy. India is a nuclear power state but not a member of NPT. In addition, Lee’s government acted upon the US request to impose an independent sanction against Iran, which was beyond the scope of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Of course, South Korea has never imposed any sanctions against Israel. Such double standards make it even more difficult to find a solution to the North Korea’s nuclear problem.
As rightly acknowledged in the joint statement of PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament) members of South Korea and Japan last February, policies based on nuclear deterrence are bound to invite more nuclear threats. It is not just North Korea but all of its neighboring, militarily much mightier countries that are not ready to abandon policies dependent on nuclear deterrence. One has to remember that the US nuclear umbrella has been long open much before North Korea started its nuclear programme. The governments in South Korea, Japan and the US still hold the view that the nuclear umbrella of the US and North Korea’s nuclear programme cannot be traded.
In the last decade, what has justified South Korea, Japan and the US’s dependence on nuclear deterrence and double-standard nuclear weapons policy was the mistrust and fear cast upon North Korea’s nuclear programme. The reaction of the three governments, however, has resulted in the self-contradictory turn-out, two nuclear weapons tests by North Korea. They were the actual result of a failed strategy made of exaggerated fear, mistrust, double standards, neglect and coercion. Such a failure should not repeat itself. What we need is more active, mutual measures that have not been employed so far. The six-party talk should not confine its agenda to the abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear programme, but to relate itself also to envisioning a peace regime in Korea, establishing arms controls on conventional weapons, and strengthening efforts to eliminate nuclear threat throughout Northeast Asia. Efforts to create nuclear-free Northeast Asia will be an alternative and breakthrough to the narrow, North-Korea-nuclear-issue-oriented six-party talk. ☼
▣ Who Defines Threat? Who decides Priority of Policies for People’s Safety?
Today, we're discussing how to end the arms racing in the Asia-Pacific Region. Why do we have to reduce military spending, and how can it make it possible then?
The government officials argue that a certain level of military spending is necessary for the security. However, the issue here is who defines a threat, and who defines the "certain" level and means enough to keep the country secure.
It is critical not only because military spending is just too much, but also because the actor who defines a threat can easily control the rest. We've well known throughout history that manipulated fear could control a community to make a irrational decision. The latest and most popular case is the Iraqi War.
As you know well, Asia-Pacific region, where we're living, is showing the highest level of military spending in the world. At this point, we should doubt. Firstly, we should ask if the eminent threat really exists. Secondly, even assuming a certain level of threat exists, we need to consider whether the threat can be resolved only by military means or military preparations. It must be doubted whether depending on the exaggerated fear and military means is deteriorating the matter or not.
Let's take the North Korea's nuclear issue.
As Hussein became described as a demon before the Iraqi War, now North Korea and Iran are also frequently demonized. So, they are considered as an unpredictable dictator. Especially, they are accused of frequently violating the promise not to develop nuclear weapons. Is this really true?
The critical thing we need to recall is that there had been a thousand nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea even before North Korea's attempted to built nuclear reprocessing plant and had nuclear tests.
The other critical thing is that even now South Korea and Japan are under the US nuclear umbrella while the US is still adhering to preemptive nuclear attack option now at the moment we're talking about threat from North Korea..
Let take another look on the implementation of the promise. After the end of the Cold War, in Northeast Asia, South Korea restored and improved the relations with China and Russia in the 1980s. And between 1991 and 2002, North Korea and Japan, and North Korea and the US concluded to comprehensive agreements to restore and improve the relations, the South-North Korea Summit in 2000, US-DPRK Joint Communique in 2000, and the North Korea-Japan Summit in 2002. Then, who broke such compromise? Was it only North Korea?
In case of the US-DPRK Joint Communique, Bush administration did break it. The implementation of the agreement between North Korea and Japan has been long delayed because of the liquidation of the past. Whose past? It was not the liquidation of the past of Japanese imperialism, but the liquidation of the North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese. Even from our viewpoint, it is out of balance and politically exaggerated within the Japanese society/(government).
Let's take another case then. In 2001, South Korea purchased 40 F-15K planes which cost 100 million dollars per plane. The reason for such huge spending is surprising. At that time, the Ministry of Defense argued that it was necessary to have high-tech fighters with long journey capability. So, PSPD officially inquired the Ministry of Defense that South Korea was really preparing for the threat from Japan that was one of the US alliances. Then, the Ministry of Defense answered it was for the threat from North Korea. But, at the same time, the Ministry of Dense still publicized that the purchase was for preparing the potential threat from surrounding countries including Japan to the public.
In fact, F-15 was sufficient to attack North Korea, but the same time, it was pretty outdated. Nevertheless, the South Korean government purchased F-15 from the US, instead of better one from France or the EU. Why? That is because the Bush administration wanted not to close down the F-15 plant of Boeing by selling F-15 to South Korea.
In other words, the South Korean government promoted fear from the exaggerated Japanese threat to purchase F-15 to let Boeing get moneys. And the South Korean government actually deployed the purchased F-15 for the purpose of preemptive attacks.
As it is well known, North Korea is neither able to buy nor produce weapons like F-15. That's because North Korea couldn't afford it. As a result, North Korea is highly likely to prefer affordable and destructive weapons to expensive conventional weapons. And then, the US, South Korea and Japan purchase expensive missile defense weapons and weapons for precise targeting as insisting the threat of the North Korea's WMD (weapons for massive destruction). Moreover, they adhere to the nuclear umbrella and nuclear preemptive attacks.
Similar thing is happening in Jeju Island in South Korea, where is located near Shanghai and Taiwan, Province of China. South Korea is building a huge naval base in Jeju, which nuclear submarines and AEGIS destroyers of the US might utilize.
What’s the reason for building a new naval base in Jeju then? Reported by the Ministry of Defense, it is for to protect crude oil protection from the pirate. Then, when it was asked "the reason is just that?", then the Ministry of Defense said vaguely that China might be a threat potentially.
But, it is not hard to imagine that the Chinese threat can become created when the US missile defense weapons transit Jeju Naval Base, even though now we can't figure out if it really exists.
I'd like to highlight my points and recommend a few things as concluding.
Firstly, there is too high social cost because of the exaggerated threat, the manipulated fear and bias which is promoted by the each government. Such cost must be reduced. We can save such social cost a lot by just questioning on the threat interpretation and the security policies. It also means that we take back our right about safety issues. We should not allow a few so called 'security specialists' or officials to have too much influence on security policy-making process. For example, we, people can and must decide the priority and opt spending money for invading Iraq or for defending us against hurricanes Katrina.
Secondly, we should look for diplomatic means, not military means, and look for reconciliation and cooperation, not hostile relations. By the way, if citizen's perception were limited to the border, we could be more prejudiced and more rely on military means. You know the saying "Put yourself in my shoes", meaning it is necessary to think in terms of other's point of view. Namely, the civil society is required to put efforts to be beyond the border. In that point, the Pacific Freeze campaign is a critical means.
Thirdly, we should initiate preemptive peace activities, not attack. When we look reflect the process of the arms racing in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1980s after the Cold War, what we have to do is apparent. In a broad sense, in the 1990s, people sought for improving international relations and reconciliations. However, the Bush administration encourated arms conflict and arms racing in this region, and maximized the military industry and war profiteers. The US alliances including South Korea and Japan are also responsible for this. It's time to make an action plan for the preemptive peace attacks.
Preemptive reduction of military spending is necessary and possible. When the civil society talks about military spending cut, the military specialists reject it saying that's too ideal. They say confidence-building comes first, control of armaments is next, and disarmament is the last. They also try to persuade the civil society that it's useless if the opponent is not complying with. However, there is no such case of disarmament as they mentioned.
Let me specify my recommendation. We should initiate a campaign, urgently and directly requesting that South Korea, Japan and the US should start disarmament without mentioning the abolition of North Korean Nukes first. I believe this is the solution for the current situation and the strategy for the Pacific Freeze. And, this is our answer for the question that "can we believe North Korea?".
Lastly, I'd like to propose a project. For the success of the Pacific Freeze campaign, we should regularize our efforts to present alternative civil interpretation on contemporary situations and alternative peace strategies as challenging the state threat interpretation and security policies. The civil peace white paper should be produced as an alternative to the defense white papers written by the state (QDR for the US). To initiate the project, this October 2010, the year for the 60th year for the Korean War, I propose to have a conference by inviting civil societies in the Asia-Pacific Region for sharing and discussing civil alternatives and strategies.
Thank you for listening!
◯ Taeho LEE / Korea
Taeho Lee is the Co-Deputy Secretary General of PSPD and a member for Executive Committee of the Center for Peace and Disarmament of PSPD. He is a policy committee member of the South Korean Committee for the Implementation of the June 15 South- North Joint Declaration since 2005. He was a visiting researcher at the Columbia University. As becoming a coordinator of PSPD in 1995, he was responsible for anti-corruption movement and especially protection of whistle blowers who disclosed corruption of the arms contract. With establishing the Center for Peace and Disarmament of PSPD in 2003, he has organized various projects concerning disarmament and the democratic control of the security power. His efforts for peace and disarmament are campaign against War on Iraq and Afghanistan(2003-), campaign against development of the Korean helicopter, movement against the establishment of the naval base in Jeju Island, and movement against the legislation of the anti-terrorism and anti-money laundry for terrorism while proposing civil alternatives for the military reform and raising questions on the sinking of the Cheonan warship investigation. He is the author of several books including '2008 Civil White Paper of Peace'(co-author, 2008), '2010 Civil White Paper of Peace'(co-author, 2010), 'Raise Questions on the Cheonan Warship'(co-author, 2010), 'The Sealed Truth of the Cheonan Warship'(co-author, 2010). He also wrote many articles including 'Movement against War on Iraq and the Civil Society of Korea'(2006, 世界), 'The Major Six Problems of the Military Reform'(parliamentary report, 2006), 'The Problems of the legislations of anti-money laundry for terrorism'(parliamentary report, 2007), 'Making a Peace State and Civil movement'(Citizen and the World, 2007), 'War against terrorism and US civil movement'(reserch paper for the POSCO Foundation, 2009).