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(Yonhap Editorial) S. Korea should toughen security preparedness on 3rd anniv. of navy ship sinking
SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea marks the third anniversary of the sinking of its navy ship Cheonan by North Korea on Tuesday. A torpedo attack from a small North Korean submarine tore apart the 1,200-ton corvette near a border island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 South Korean sailors. While all the sacrifices the fallen soldiers made should never be forgotten, we believe the country should observe various kinds of events marking the tragic incident as an opportunity to examine and ensure its security preparedness in the face of possible further provocations by the North.

   The government will hold a memorial service at the national cemetery in the central city of Daejeon to remember the 46 soldiers and the late Warrant Officer Han Joo-ho, who died after desperate dives attempting to rescue sailors from the warship. President Park Geun-hye, who will take part in the service, is expected to deliver an address that will call for the South to enhance military preparedness against the North's possible provocations and to deal sternly with them.

   It is only natural that Park should send the North a clear and strong-worded message that the South will never tolerate its provocations at a time Pyongyang has ratcheted up security threats following its third nuclear test in February and long-range rocket launch last year.

   South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo has said the North has shown signs of provocations, including increasing jet fighter training flights this month in spite of its devastated economic conditions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected a military unit for the third straight day on Sunday as the country stepped up military threats against the South and the United States.

   As a backdrop of the North's possible provocative actions, the signing on Sunday of a new joint operational plan between the two allies is more than a timely measure. Under the plan, the two allies improve their combined readiness posture to allow them to immediately and decisively respond to North Korean provocations.

   The Combined Counter-Provocation Plan, which is led by South Korea and supported by the U.S., calls for South Korea's military to take an active role in the initial stage of any contingency on the Korean Peninsula by striking the origin of the enemy's provocation, and supporting and commanding forces. If North Korean provocations escalate, the U.S. will provide reinforcements from within and outside of South Korea, including Japan and elsewhere in the region under the control of the U.S. Pacific Command. Previously, South Korean forces were solely in charge of any actions against North Korean provocations, while the U.S military would come to the aid of South Korea only when a full-scale war erupts.

   South Korea and the U.S. developed the joint plan in the wake of two major incidents in the Yellow Sea in 2010 -- the North Korean bombardment of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong and the navy ship's sinking.
The South Korean military needs to punish the North with actions, not with words, if the North takes another provocative action. Right after the Yeonpyeong artillery attrack, it had said it would strike back the enenmy's supporting and commanding forces as well as the origin of its provocations. The resolute readiness posture remains in the memory of the people.

   We also urge North Korea not to engage in further provocations. The South Korean military has given a strong warning to the North: Do not behave in a rash manner or be prepared to face the music.