Monday, June 28, 2010

A bitter price Koreans must pay

(Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 1, 2010)

There will be no renewed fighting in the Korean War—halted by an Armistice since July 27, 1953—despite rapid preparations for war by both sides following the sinking of a South Korean warship by North Korea last March. North and South Korea never signed a formal peace treaty ending the Korean War (1950-1953). They remain technically at war, the world’s longest conventional war of the 20th century that has extended into the next.

It is ominous war clouds seem to be hovering over the peninsula as the world approaches the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War on June 25. Although military and political experts say war remains improbable, this latest escalation of tensions by Stalinist North Korea means similar provocations will recur in the future, probably in the Yellow Sea where the border separating both countries remains contested.

It seems almost certain one of these incidents could re-ignite a war that will re-shape Asia and the world in the first half of the 21st century. It is a war that might well weaken the economies of the U.S. and China (the world’s two largest) to such an extent a new and more horrible Great Depression will ravage the world unchecked.

Despite its overstretched armed forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.’ military leadership believes victory is possible in Korea given the U.S.’ immense superiority in military technology (especially those deployed by the U.S. Navy and Air Force). This reliance on sophisticated technology seems reasonable given that only 29,000 U.S. and 520,000 South Korean soldiers stand in the way of North Korea’s 1.2 million man mechanized army.

The world will definitely commemorate the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War on June 25. Further activities in September will mark the 60th anniversary of the landing of the first Filipino Battalion Combat Team (BCT) at Busan on September 19, 1950. Five BCTs mustering 7,500 officers and men from the Philippine Army served in Korea from 1950-55 as PEFTOK, the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea.

Delegations of our aging Korean War veterans are preparing to travel to a country where over 100 of their fellow soldiers died defending South Korea from aggression by communist China and North Korea. Some 400 Filipino soldiers were wounded in combat while 17 others remain missing-in-action to this day.

That Filipino veterans will march in celebrations honoring their noble sacrifice and that of the U.S., South Korea and 19 other countries that served under the United Nations Command is, however, sad proof only military power can guarantee peace in the Korean peninsula.

The unyielding aim of North Korea is to merge both Koreas under communism in a war of unification, the same aim it had in 1950. The goal of South Korea and the U.S. is to defeat this war of unification, thereby uniting Korea in the process.

But as the price of unification is renewed war, and since both foes are unwilling to risk that war, Korea must remain a divided country to maintain world peace. It is a bitter price the Korean people have to continue to pay. I sympathize greatly with the heroic Korean people.