’Peace Eye’ deployment
It’s time to devise new defense strategy
South Korea is scheduled to deploy its first airborne early warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft next month. The state-of-the-art plane called “Peace Eye” arrived at Gimhae Air Base from Boeing’s factory in Seattle on Monday. It can simultaneously track up to 1,000 airborne or surface targets on the entire Korean Peninsula.
There is no doubt that the introduction of the surveillance aircraft will significantly enhance the nation’s defense capabilities against North Korea. It is able to detect the North’s low-flying AN-2 planes, propeller-driven biplanes carrying 10 to 15 heavily armed soldiers. The AWACS plane will also help better detect signs of the North’s provocations such as the sinking of the South’s warship Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
The South is to emerge as the world’s ninth operator of the military spy aircraft after the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The nation plans to deploy three more Peace Eyes by the end of 2012. The deployment is part of Seoul’s efforts to reduce its dependence on U.S. surveillance aircraft before it takes over wartime operational control from the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
The aircraft is a must for Korea to thwart any military attempts against the South. It’s time for the Seoul government to adopt a new defense strategy and operational tactics in line with an early warning and control system. The best policy is to establish a watertight defense and security system. It is important to gather information about the enemy’s every movement.
The South should overhaul its military strategy of focusing on strong ground forces with conventional weapons. This outdated strategy proved to be ineffective in preventing the communist state from staging more stealthy surprise attacks such as the Cheonan incident that claimed 46 South Korean sailors in March 2010.
In this regard, the South should develop more high-tech weaponry and military equipment. It must concentrate on improving air and naval power in order to block the North from resorting to military adventurism. It should no longer delay defense reform that has often been marred by conflicting interests of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force as well as political bickering between ruling and opposition parties.
At the same time, the South is required to boost its soft power as the military hardware is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee defense and security. Peace is hard to maintain only with military power. This is not to play down the necessity and importance of the AWACS aircraft and other high-tech weapons. But policymakers need to be more careful not to provide an excuse for the North to justify its nuclear weapons program.