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Tsutomu Nishioka

【#547(Special)】North-South Military Accord Criticized by Experts

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2018.10.04 (Thu)

October 1, 2018

     A military agreement issued by the North and South Korean defense ministers on the occasion of a bilateral summit in Pyongyang in September has come under growing fire from the South Korean military circle.
     The document called The Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain says that the two Koreas will cease all live-fire artillery drills and field training exercises at the regiment level and above within 5 kilometers from their Military Demarcation Line, cease all live-fire and maritime maneuver exercises within 80 kilometers from the Northern Limit Line taken as a maritime ceasefire line, and set up no-fly zones within 20 kilometers from the MDL in the West close to Seoul and within 40 kilometers from the MDL in the East, from November 1, 2018.

No-fly zone depriving the South of surveillance capabilities
     North Korea has not implemented its denuclearization pledge yet. At such a stage, the military agreement represents a dangerous accord under which South Korea would unilaterally lose their military superiority in conventional weapons. A particular problem cited by South Korean military experts is the no-fly zone designation that would deprive the South Korean Air Force of its surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. “The military agreement would amount to an instrument of surrender,” said Shin Won Sik, a retired Army lieutenant general and a former vice chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Munhwa Ilbo newspaper (September 21). Shin, who has served the core military posts such as commander of the third division and head of the Capital Defense Command, made the following points:
     - North Korean forces have a quantitative superiority over South Korea in conventional capabilities, having two to three times more personnel and equipment. The South Koran forces have so far taken advantage of their qualitative superiority to maintain the balance of power with the North. South Korea’s excellent surveillance and reconnaissance, and precision attack capabilities are the means to offset North Korea’s quantitative superiority. The no-fly zone designation would operationally paralyze the core of the means.
     - The no-fly zone designation would leave South Korea unable to detect long-range North Korean cannons coming out from tunnels for shooting or check how North Korean forces are deployed forward and moving.
     - If North Korean forces’ show of force is detected, South Korea will have to launch attacks. In the absence of surveillance, however, attacks would be impossible. South Korea is inferior in artillery and ground combat capabilities but superior in air force capabilities. Air Force’s guided weapons such as 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions and 5,000-pound bunker busters may attack tunnels for long-range cannons, major command posts, telecommunication facilities and ammunition storage facilities with the help of surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. They are the weapons that North Koreans fear most. Given their range limited to 20 kilometers, however, the no-fly zone designation might neutralize these guided weapons.

Warnings failing to reach ordinary people
     However, the warning by the former military leader has failed to reach most of the South Korean citizens. President Moon Jae In’s approval ratings shot up by 10 to 20 percentage points after his latest meeting with North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. If sovereign citizens do not get awaken, South Korea may have no choice but to kill itself, Cho Gap Che and other South Korean conservative leaders say. However, their arguments have received little media coverage in South Korea.

Tsutomu Nishioka is a member of the Planning Committee at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and Visiting Professor at Reitaku University.