The weapon North Korea fired at a South Korean guard post on Sunday along the heavily-armed border was a 14.5 mm heavy machine gun capable of penetrating an armored vehicle. The lives of troops were at risk. But both Cheong Wa Dade and the military were in a rush to write off the incident as an “accidental discharge” and did not even lodge a formal protest. Experts say North Korean heavy machine guns are not known to misfire, and the story is even less likely given that all four bullets squarely hit a patch of wall 1.5 km away. On Monday, a day after the incident, North Korea lambasted South Korea’s procurement of U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets and joint military exercises, which makes it crystal clear that the provocation was planned as usual.

In the past, the South Korean military broadcast warnings and told the public when and what weapons North Korea fired. But the current administration kept mum. A Cheong Wa Dae official explained North Korea’s silence by saying, “The North rarely responds when it comes to its mistakes.” In other words, the presidential office claims that silence is somehow proof that the gunshots were accidental. The government is bending over backward to excuse North Korea’s latest provocation. Will it also pass off the North’s next missile launch as an accidental fumble?

Yet the same government wasted no time making personal attacks against North Korean defectors-turned-lawmakers who ran off at the mouth when rumors started that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is dead. They had to apologize profusely. They may have gotten ahead of themselves, but that is hardly a mistake on the same order of magnitude as shooting at a guard post. It is time the government got its priorities straight.

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