(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on April 18)
Crisis calls on South Korea to build up own defense capability
North Korea continues to resort to brinksmanship despite the growing international pressure against its nuclear and missile provocations.
Defying warnings, including the strongest yet from the US, the North attempted to test-fire a missile Sunday, on the day US Vice President Mike Pence began a three-day visit to South Korea.
The launch in the North's east coast of the unidentified missile ended in failure, as did a medium-range ballistic missile lifted from the same area on April 5.
The North's latest missile provocation came one day after it showed off, in a massive military parade, what is believed to be a new kind of intercontinental ballistic missile and a set of submarine-launched missiles and intermediate-range missiles.
The parade that marked the 105th birthday of the North's founder Kim Il-sung was preceded by its usual propaganda tactic, the use of Western media.
Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol said in an interview with the Associated Press that the North can conduct another nuclear test any time Kim Jung-un wants.
Han argued that the North has a powerful nuclear deterrent already in its hands and that it will not fail to counter a US preemptive strike.
These latest moves by the North are meant to demonstrate its defiance against the international pressure led by US President Donald Trump, who even hinted at using military means to end the North Korean threats.
Trump has already ordered the aircraft carrier strike group led by USS Carl Vinson to head to the Korean Peninsula, saying it was aimed at preventing provocations by the North.
Some also linked his order to strike Syrian government forces -- his first such order since taking office -- and the US military's use of the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan -- the GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb which is also called the "Mother Of All Bombs" -- to the possibility of the US taking unilateral action against the North.
Both US and South Korean officials, including the visiting US vice president, stressed that the US will maintain in close cooperation with its allies like South Korea and Japan in dealing with the North. The US will not make any important decision without consulting its allies, they say.
Nevertheless, the current precarious situation should reawaken South Koreans to the need to build up its own war capabilities.
Against this backdrop, the latest defense plan announced last week should be put to a more thorough review and -- if necessary -- modifications to make our military strong enough to deter and win over any military conflict with the North on our own.
The "Mid-term Defense Plan for 2018-2022" is highlighted by the early buildup of a trilateral defense system against the North's nuclear and missile threats, among other things.
The plan calls for establishing -- by early 2020s -- the "three-axis system" that consists of a "Kill Chain" preemptive strike, the Korean Air and Missile Defense and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation strategy.
Specifically, a large portion of the 238.2 trillion won ($210 billion) defense plan will be spent for securing military satellites and early warning radars, improving strike missile technologies and expanding the missile shield system.
The currently unfolding crisis is good evidence that such a plan should have been prepared much earlier. Officials said the plan was revised and updated in consideration of the latest developments involving the North's threats. Nonetheless, it still falls short of reassuring the public about the capability of our own armed forces to protect the country.
Self-reinforcement of our military, coupled with strong alliance with the US, is the most effective means to deter and counter any provocation by the North. Whoever becomes the next president, his first job should be working out the fastest and most effective plans to reinforce our own military power.