Reason and restraint
Peace requires self-reflection, mutual recognition
The South Korean military pushed ahead with the much-talked-about live-fire drills on Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea Monday afternoon. Much to the relief of all people on this divided peninsula, North Korea reportedly had shown no particular reactions as this page went to press. Pyongyang ought to maintain that attitude.
From a most objective viewpoint, one might understand why the North is loath to recognize the maritime border drawn one-sidedly by the U.S.-led U.N. Command 57 years ago. But shelling a populated island for reasons of military exercises that have become all but routine for both Koreas for decades is the last means to address its discontent. It would only end up heightening tension in this tinder box to an uncontrollable level.
It has always been so with the communist regime: Whenever North Korea made inexcusable provocations, Pyongyang said Seoul invited it. The most tragic example of this was the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea’s military adventurism has always been thirsty for a pretext.
Even so, it defies our understanding how a regime, which has been sloganeering the ``Korean people as one brethren,” could threaten a nuclear war that might obliterate the entire peninsula from the world map.
As long as Pyongyang regards Seoul as little more than ``America’s puppet,” and an object to be communized by force, this vicious circle of attacks and revenge would not cease but escalate until it destroys both sides. It’s time for North Korea to propose talks to discuss the so-called Northern Limit Line, instead of ratcheting up rhetoric and actions to back up its own words. Whether the provocation in the West Sea is aimed at ensuring power transfer or getting economic aid, it would go nowhere.
For the South, too, this is a time for calm self-reflection. The Lee Myung-bak administration needs to ask itself whether it is succeeding in even one of the two essential areas to maintain peace ― defense and diplomacy. It is all too apparent now the Lee administration has adopted an unnecessarily hard-line stance against the North without making necessary defense preparedness. People would have wished for their government to the exact opposite ― maintaining a soft, flexible policy outwardly but strong as steel in inward preparedness.
The Lee administration, which was caught off guard not just once but twice, should not fall into an excessive _ and belated _ sense of settling scores. A more capable and cautious government would have calmed down the emotional vengefulness of the people, not instigating or exploiting it as this administration seems to be doing sometimes.
While the Koreas are mired in tit-for-tat military escalation, the situation surrounding their peninsula is increasingly getting out of their hands. The basic framework of international politics in this part of the world hasn’t changed much from a century ago with China and Russia on the one side and the U.S. and Japan on the other, while Koreans themselves split in two warring forces.
Once again, Koreans are gripped by anger, arrogance and self-righteousness while surrounding powers are engaged in a very complicated psychological and diplomatic war.