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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on March 9)

All Headlines 07:05 March 09, 2016

Deterring North Korea
Military, diplomatic measures needed

North Korea raises tensions -- usually by words and sometimes by provocative acts -- at this time of the year, when South Korea and the U.S. hold annual joint military exercises.

This year, the seasonal tension on the peninsula is being exacerbated by the U.N.-led international sanctions against the North's recent nuclear test and launch of a rocket.

Under the toughest-ever U.N. punishment of the North, the Philippines has already seized a North Korean ship. China, in a departure from its mediocre attitude in the past, is also moving quickly to enforce the sanctions, ordering a ban on ships blacklisted by the U.N. resolution and forbidding remittance to North Korean banks of U.S. dollars and the Chinese yuan.

The U.S. and Japan have already imposed separate sanctions, with the EU and its member countries such as Britain and Germany set to follow suit soon. South Korea, which had pulled its businesses out of the Gaeseong industrial park, announced additional measures Tuesday, including a ban on the entry of ships from third-party countries that have been to North Korea and financial sanctions on individuals and entities involved in its programs to make weapons of mass destruction.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his military are reacting to the international pressure vehemently. They threatened preemptive strikes against the Blue House, U.S. bases in South Korea and in other Asia-Pacific areas, and the U.S. mainland. North Korean media quoted Kim as ordering its nuclear arsenal to be on standby for a launch at any time.

It is ironic that the North’s recalcitrance and threats of retaliation are only driving the South and the U.S. to lift the level and scale of their joint exercises to a new height.

This year, the allies are mobilizing 300,000 Korean and 17,000 U.S. troops with the backup of key U.S. strategic assets like an aircraft carrier, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth bombers.

Moreover, for the first time, the allies are shifting the focus of the joint drills to offensive from defensive. Officials said the exercises, which began Monday and will continue through the end of next month, will be conducted under the Operation Plan 5015, which aims to remove the North's weapons of mass destruction and prepare the allied troops for a preemptive strike in the wake of a North Korean attack.

In other words, this year's exercises are putting emphasis on preemptive surgical strikes against the North's nuclear, missile facilities and hideouts of government and military leaders, including its leader Kim Jong-un.

These will certainly make Kim and his associates more than nervous and their apprehension will grow with the international sanctions further strangling their military and national economy. Which is why we should stay vigilant against the possibility of any further provocation.

Strong deterrence comes only from full military preparedness and war capability superiority. It is essential therefore to maintain flawless defense readiness in cooperation with the U.S. military.

Also not to be overlooked is the possibility of the North launching attacks targeting key state facilities and soft targets in the South and acts of cyberterrorism. This calls upon not only the military but also all South Koreans to enhance their security awareness.

Diplomats too have a mission. Efforts should be made -- in tandem with allies such as the U.S. and Japan -- to induce China and Russia to exert their influence to discourage the North from resorting to an irreparable act that only will result in its own destruction.
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