June 16, 2004
REDUCTION OF U.S. FORCES IN SOUTH KOREA LABELED
** Conservative ROK papers
bemoan the reduction as proof of a "ruined Korea-U.S. alliance."
** Leftist Korean dailies
warn against being "overly cautious of the security vacuum."
** It is
"unclear" how the reduction will impact the ROK's budget and Yongsan
** The cut in USFK will
have "profound implications" for both Japan and the region.
'Only a shadow of our alliance is left'-- Right-leaning writers blamed the
"realignment of U.S. forces" on Seoul's "easygoing attitude of
neglecting the ROK-U.S. alliance." Chosun
Ilbo urged the Roh administration to "honestly confess...the truth
about the strained bilateral alliance"; Joong-Ang Ilbo stated that
"Seoul needs to regain the trust of the U.S." Other outlets criticized the
"problematic" and "hardly considerate" way the U.S.
notified Seoul of the troop reduction and suggested the U.S. "refrain from
seeking unilateral changes" to the alliance.
'Security is not ensured through military strength alone'-- Progressive dailies assailed the "so-called
security vacuum paranoia," with the leftist OhMyNews website calling the
USFK reduction "an opportunity to promote disarmament." Hankyoreh Shinmun judged that a
military buildup to "avoid a security vacuum" would result in an
"unnecessary arms race." Hankook
Ilbo added the "only way to ensure security" is by
"improving inter-Korean relations."
Conservative papers contended that the reduction leaves a "big hole
in our security" while blasting the government's "empty diplomatic
rhetoric about cooperative independent defense." Observers agreed the "reduction cannot
be reversed" because it is a "facet of the U.S. government's global
An 'astronomical amount of money is needed'-- Korean analysts speculated that the USFK
reduction would spur Seoul to "significantly increase its military
budget." The pro-government Korea
Herald predicted "numerous arms buildup projects" in pursuit of
the "most elusive concept" of independent defense. Conservative papers countered that "an
alliance policy is the best method to reduce the security burden." Other analysts linked the reduction to the
redeployment of U.S. troops from their Yongsan base, urging Seoul to
"renegotiate this deal from square one." Independent Dong-A Ilbo said it made
"little sense" for the U.S. to demand "more land for its new
base" while cutting its forces in South Korea by one-third.
A 'serious impact' in Asia--
Regional dailies such as the liberal Sydney Morning Herald
foresaw "increasing scrutiny" of the U.S.' "new strategic
vision." In Japan, conservative
papers worried the cut would "send the wrong signal to North
Korea." Yomiuri called on
Tokyo to "make unstinting efforts to uphold its alliance" with the
U.S. because "disharmony" between Washington and Seoul could be
"exploited" by Pyongyang.
Liberal papers cautioned that the "ongoing transformation" of
U.S. forces would "result in the further integration of Japan's SDF into
U.S. military operations." Tokyo
Shimbun stressed the troop cut must not lead to "strengthened or
expanded functions for U.S. forces in Japan."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Government. This analysis was based on
28 reports from 5 countries over 24 May - 16 June 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed
from the most recent date.
"Independent Defense Costs"
The English-language pro-government Korea Herald
editorialized (6/15): "Finance
officers at the Defense Ministry must have had a hard time compiling their
budget request for 2005, as Washington's notification of its plan to reduce a
third of its troop strength in Korea by the end of next year came about the
time when they have usually finalized their annual numbers. Regardless of how carefully the figures in
the ministry's budget draft were readjusted, the defense expenditure request
for next year amounted to 21.5 trillion won, or $17.8 billion, representing a
13.7 percent increase from this year's total spending. If the Ministry of Planning and Budget, the
presidential office, and finally the National Assembly, approve it with minor
cuts--and it is most likely that they will do so in view of the impact of the
proposed U.S. troop reduction plan on the security situation here--a large part
of the budget will be spent for numerous arms buildup projects in pursuit of an
'independent defense.' Overall, the
proposed budget accounts for 2.9 percent of Korea's (provisional) gross
domestic product compared to the 2.8 percent ratio given to the 2004 defense
budget. The share of GDP gradually dropped from about 5 percent a decade ago,
as the government found other priorities for spending taxpayer's money when the
military threats from North Korea were not as dominant a factor as before. Now, it is expected that the defense outlay
to GDP ratio will take a reverse course to a steady budget rise in the years to
come as the government implements its 10-year forces improvement program to be
on a par with North Korea in war capabilities. The defense authorities have an
impressive shopping list.... Again,
Korea will become a battleground for the world's arms dealers as the U.S. will
no longer be the main supplier. Thus, an
arms buildup will start in earnest here, but an 'independent defense'
establishing a reliable deterrent against North Korean aggressiveness is a most
elusive concept. Some defense experts
estimate that the USFK at present contribute as much as 30 percent to the
combined defense power here, while a Korea Institute of Defense Analysis report
has it that the role of the USFK is worth 14 trillion to 21 trillion won each
year. Still, the value of the Korea-U.S. military alliance of today is hard to
calculate in numbers. Defense is a
relative matter, and the strategic objective here is not a victory or conquest
but a reliable deterrent. Defending ourselves against North Korea needs to
involve diverse dimensions of warfare, ranging from a conventional artillery
and infantry onslaught across the Demilitarized Zone, combined with missile
launches from inside positions, to unconventional chemical and biological
attacks that may be extended to the use of nuclear weapons. No defense system will be effective against
the kind of military threats North Korea poses now unless the defenders secure
all-annihilating, instant counter-attack capabilities that force the enemy to
have second thoughts before going to war. This will be possible only under the
aegis of the alliance. President Roh
Moo-hyun has stressed 'cooperative independent defense' as perhaps he
recognizes the limits to independent efforts for a self-sufficient defense. The
21.5 trillion won defense budget for 2005 and the 10-year forces improvement
plan, which is partly reflected in the spending scheme, must represent the
nation's sincere step forward to achieving independent defense, but it should
offer no illusion about an early 'graduation' from the alliance with the
"How Will We Pay For all This?"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo asked
(6/15): "Issues that will greatly
affect Korea's future, including the U.S. troop reduction and the moving of the
administrative capital, are coming to a head simultaneously. These projects
will not be cheap. Can we handle the burden? We believe it is time to examine
our financial status and establish a plan to fund the tasks. Korea's financial outlook does not inspire
optimism. Due to cuts in corporate taxes, revenue is expected to fall 2
trillion won ($1.72 billion) annually from next year. The economy is unlikely
to grow at past rates, and there is a limit to raising the tax burden of the
Korean people. But the planned expenditures
are enormous.... This is why many
overseas experts worry about Korea's financial future. And this is not the end. Projects requiring
astronomic amounts of capital are continuously coming up. The cost of moving
U.S. troops from Yongsan Garrison alone is expected to exceed 4 trillion won.
Currently, it is unclear how much it will cost to move the capital and make the
defense improvements needed because of the U.S. troop reduction. Where will all the money come from? It is
questionable whether President Roh Moo-hyun's administration has carefully
reviewed the nation's revenue and expenditures. After the economic crisis of
the late '90s, Korea's financial status is not in good shape, as national debt
totaled 165.7 trillion won last year. If
the country continues to push for projects without plans to fund them, it will
become difficult to invest in improving Korea's competitiveness, and we might
even have to extend our hand for loans. It will mean a hopeless future. System
renewal is certainly positive, but what's more important is reducing spending.
The government must cut down on unnecessary, politically motivated projects.
The administration must refrain from burdening our descendants and the nation's
"Falsehood In Arguing That USFK Reductions Will Create
Lee Churl-ki, professor of international relations at Dongguk
University, wrote in moderate Hankook Ilbo (6/11): “The planned reduction of USFK is not a
result of strained relations between the ROK and the U.S. nor does it mean a
weakening of the U.S. commitment to the security of the ROK. The reduction stems from changes in the
U.S.’s global strategy and the concept of overseas American troops.... With Washington’s strategic focus shifting to
Asia and its ambition to hold China in check taking concrete shape, the ROK
will become more important in strategic terms.
This is why the construction of a highly advanced, permanent military
base to be used in the next 50 years is currently underway in the Osan and
Pyongtaek region.... Even if the current
regime of North Korea is atrocious and wicked, it is far-fetched to assume
that, as soon as the 12,500 U.S. troops are withdrawn from the ROK, the North
Korean regime would choose to invade the ROK, risking its collapse.... Didn’t Larry Niksch, a conservative U.S.
expert on the Korean peninsula, already declare in 2001 that North Korea lost
its capability to attack the ROK?....
The only way to ensure security on the peninsula is by improving
inter-Korean relations, easing military tensions, and reducing armaments
through inter-Korean dialogue. Security
is not ensured through military strength alone.”
"Let Us Not Play
Games With Security"
Kim Dae-joong noted in conservative Chosun Ilbo
(6/10): “Even though it is true that the
U.S. has long prepared to reposition its troops around the world in accordance
with the Pentagon’s global defense posture review, it is also true that the
political situation in the ROK has moved up the timing and size of the
realignment of U.S. forces here. In this situation, the statements of U.S.
officials that the reduction and redeployment of USFK is intended to further
enhance USFK’s capabilities on the peninsula are nothing short of unconvincing
rhetoric. The ROK and the U.S. should stop making hollow rhetoric and work hard
to come up with systematic measures to not allow any military adventurism on
"Yongsan Garrison Negotiations Become
Battle Of Emotions"
Conservative Chosun Ilbo declared
(6/10): "Korea and the U.S. are
staging an emotional war after their negotiations over the relocation of the
Yongsan base broke down. The chief U.S. negotiator outspokenly expressed
disappointment, saying that he felt frustrated at the negotiations becoming a
political issue, although the U.S. side made reasonable demands. Korean
negotiators also said the U.S. made unreasonable demands and they felt
disappointed. The Korea-U.S relationship and alliance have finally reached this
point. The ruined Korea-U.S alliance has passed the point that can be covered
up by the government’s glossy words. The
area in question is land measuring about 300,000 pyong, which the U.S.
additionally demanded, in Osan and Pyeongtaek, the new site for the relocation
of the Yongsan base. The two countries initially agreed to that Korea would
provide land measuring 3.12 million pyong in Osan and Pyeontaek, in exchange
for the Yongsan Garrison. Negotiations began to go awry, as the U.S. demanded
an additional land in Osan and Pyeongtaek after it decided to move the
Korea-U.S Combined Forces Command and the U.N Forces Command in January. The
two commands were supposed to remain in Seoul. In response to the demand, Korea
said that it could not accept any additional land request because more than
12,000 U.S soldiers would be withdrawn. The U.S. responded that since it was
returning to Korea 52 million pyong of the 74 million pyong it had been using
up till now, should Korea provide at least the 300,000 additional pyong
required for the base and housing? It was known that the U.S. was suspicious of
the Korean government’s hidden intentions, as some Korean broadcasters and
pro-government media have reported that the U.S. demand is unreasonable, simply
comparing the reduction of USFK with the relocation of the Yongsan base. The Korean negotiating team should
specifically reveal the process of the negotiations, and the background and
details of the additional U.S. land demand. With the revelation, the Korean
people will have an opportunity to judge whether the U.S. demand is unreasonable
or not, and they can cool-headedly think about whether it's right and wise to
let a dispute over land measuring a third of Yeouido in Seoul rupture the
50-year-long alliance between Korea and the United States."
"Basics In Troop Talks"
The English-language pro-government Korea
Herald observed (6/9): "It is
expected that a third of the 37,000 men and women of the U.S. Forces Korea will
have left by the end of 2005 if there is no drastic change in the security
situation on the peninsula during the next year and half.... Of the 12,500 U.S. troops to be withdrawn,
3,600 will depart for Iraq this summer.
The two partners of the half-century-old military alliance have begun
serious "negotiations" on this important matter. But the talks kicked
off in Seoul this week will most likely be about complementary measures needed
to ensure that the combined defense capabilities here are least affected by the
troop cut, rather than about the partial pullout plan itself. Each time the U.S. has moved to reduce its
troop strength in South Korea, the decision has created profound reactions.
Previously, Washington cited cost reduction as the reason, but this time a new
realignment plan for worldwide U.S. forces deployment, called the 'global
defense posture review,' has been introduced. Still, most Koreans are showing
the same anxiety and apprehension about the security of their country as they
have done on similar occasions since the end of the Korean War. A rather new phenomenon is a sort of
self-reproach that the surge of anti-Americanism in some sectors of Korean
society is to blame for the U.S. moves to lower its military presence here.
They often cite American officials' remarks that U.S. forces will remain only
in places where they are welcome. Yet, another
conspicuous awareness rising in Korea is that the stationing of foreign forces
in the country for a full 50 years after the end of the war is by no means
normal.... If North Korea changes, the
way we cope with it should change. And,
even if North Korea is not changing despite the transformation of international
situation surrounding it, the mode of military alliance that was created to
deter invasion from the North could still change because the strategies and
defense capabilities on this side continue to develop.... While concerned people in the South expressed
worries over what was seen as abandoning the U.S. forces "tripwire"
role, which they deemed as a vital defense tactic, North Korea blasted the plan
as a plot to launch a preemptive strike for a military solution to the problem
of its nuclear development.... At this
juncture, we had better look at the development from a more positive
perspective: that the situation on and around the Korean Peninsula has changed
enough now to warrant a review of the level of U.S. forces presence here. It is
undeniable that every Korean can feel the change, so why not the American
policymakers?.... Weakening of the
alliance is least desirable as it would tip the security balance in this
area. The USFK reduction is a U.S.
decision based on its judgment of the local, regional and global security
situations. Any effort on Seoul's part to delay its implementation to, say,
2007 after the completion of the relocation project, or 2013 after the
accomplishment of Korea's 'cooperative independent defense program' may not
produce satisfactory results. The task
in front of the Korean government is to continue to make earnest efforts to
reduce North Korean aggressive threats through dialogue and economic exchanges
while, on the other hand, building up our own defense capabilities with all
available resources. Negotiations with
the U.S. authorities should be conducted in a manner that will deepen mutual
understanding.... The Korean public and
civic society, for their part, whether or not they like the presence of foreign
uniformed people on Korean soil, should try to avoid creating unnecessary
misconceptions about bilateral relations with the U.S. and react more prudently
to the troop reduction move."
"Have They Ever Given Serious Thought To Aftereffects?"
Conservative Chosun Ilbo declared (6/9): "About 57.6 percent of the ruling party
lawmakers are opposed to the government decision to send troops to Iraq,
according to a recent poll. In reality,
57 lawmakers signed a petition for a review of the dispatch decision. Joining hands with civic groups, they are
running to push their demand forward. In
short, ruling party lawmakers are systematically maneuvering to overturn the
government decision. Have they ever
thought what will happen if the decision is withdrawn? The dispatch of troops is a promise that we
made to the international community. The
moment the promise is broken, our nation will tumble down as untrustworthy
internationally. Who would ever give
credit to such a nation? Suppose that
the breach of the promise goes against the U.S. alone, it will make no
difference. Let’s think what will
happen. The U.S. will think that South
Korea has resolved to sever our alliance with the U.S. From that moment on, the bilateral alliance
will enter into a rapid disintegration process.
Not only the U.S. Administration but also Congress will take steps to
make an overhauling review of U.S. policy toward South Korea. What will foreign investors think of South
Korea, thrown into the wilderness bereft of any alliance ties? This is a serious matter, separate from the
matter of reducing U.S. troops in South Korea by 12,500. Will China and Japan look up to South Korea
for its 'de-Americanization' as a “great independence?” Japan will show South Korea the stinging pain
of what it is like to live outside the U.S.’ orbit. The aftereffect is not confined to diplomacy
and security alone. Its impact will be
across the board inclusive of the economy, culture, and tourism. We could end up languishing outside in the
cold. China will also give us a
lesson. It will throw us away after
pulling us around as its vassal. The
lawmakers opposing the troop dispatch seem to be obsessed with not only peace
and anti-war causes, but with demonstrating that they are repulsing the U.S.
demand to set our relations with the U.S. right. They are experimenting with their shoddy
political convictions at the expense of the fate of the nation. They have neither intent nor capacity of
reflecting on what the experiment will have on the future of the nation. People simply want to say that they should
instead lower the ruling party signboard."
"Messed Up Yongsan Negotiations"
Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (6/9): "Korea and the U.S. negotiated over the
issue of the U.S. Yongsan Garrison relocation during the 9th round of the
Future of the Alliance Initiative talks, but they could not narrow their
differences. The two sides decided to keep discussing the matter in special
negotiating meetings, but it seems that finding even the slightest agreement
might be difficult. This is because the two sides have squared off over how
much land should be given in Osan-Pyeongtaek in return for Yongsan. The Korean
delegation claimed the base size in Osan-Pyeongtaek should rationally decrease
in accordance with the USFK reduction. The U.S. delegation, however, has said
that up till now, the reduction plan has been, for all intents and purposes,
reflected in the negotiations. On the contrary, the U.S. is claiming it needs
hundreds of thousands more pyoeng of land for unit facilities and housing in
order to merge the UN and Combined Forces commands with the bases in
Osan-Pyeongtaek. We have said the USFK
reduction of 12,500 men has not been sufficiently reflected and providing
around 3 million pyeong of land in Osan-Pyeongtaek was going too far, and
moreover, it was unreasonable for us to pay the entire cost of relocating the
U.S. Yongsan Garrison, so we need to renegotiate this deal from square one. We
think it is exceedingly unfair for the U.S. to turn over to us all the costs of
relocating the U.S. Yongsan Garrison while it’s clear that USFK’s redeployment
to rear areas is being done in accordance with U.S. strategy in Northeast
Asia. Despite this, it is unpardonable
that the U.S. has demanded only unilateral concessions on the part of Korea
rather than accept reductions in their base size or accept requests to share
the costs. Suspicions will not disappear that this result was brought on by the
humiliating negotiating attitude of our delegation, which could not stand up
for our rights. That things have gone
awry as such was actually a natural conclusion. Even if one renegotiates the
Yongsan move from the start, the proper order is to discuss this after an
agreement has been made on USFK reductions. The U.S. must stop thinking of
making USFK reductions a weapon to lead the Yongsan Garrison relocation talks
in an advantageous direction, and instead show a reasonable negotiating attitude."
"We Can Cope With U.S. Troop Reductions"
Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun held
(6/9): "The U.S. has officially
informed our government of its intention to withdraw 12,500 troops from Korea
by the end of next year. The size of the reduction in troop strength was as
expected, but because the timing has been moved forward, it draws attention.
When you compare it with some of the worse case scenarios going around, though,
we think the reduction is at a level with which we can cope. The government says the message conveyed by
the U.S. government was not a final decision. The U.S. says it plans to consult
with our government on concrete reduction plans. In this process, there is hope
that our government can delay the timing of the reduction to make it suit our
security situation. The USFK reduction
is taking place as a facet of the U.S. government’s global strategy, so we
cannot change the big picture. Since this is something that is directly linked
to our security, however, the U.S. plan to reduce troop strength in Korea
mustn’t be led unilaterally. We must present our own response plans and both
sides must harmonize as broadly as possible so that there are no major
problems. We must work so that the core units to our security remain, and
adjust the timing of the withdrawal so that snags do not occur with our overall
defense plans. What’s important is that
the government use the USFK reduction as an opportunity to keep in mind and
deal with the big picture in its entirety, including issues like changes in the
mission of USFK or the scope of Korea-U.S. allied forces, wartime operational
command and, later, the future of the Korea-U.S. alliance. In negotiations with
the United States, we mustn’t miss something big in order to gain something small. Moreover, it would not be a good response
policy to be overly conscious of the security vacuum that might occur with the
USFK reduction and spend more than we are able to on defense. Security works
two-ways, so if we reduce security threats by making progress on intra-Korean
exchanges and cooperation, this would be the most preferable direction by far.
We must increase the pace of reducing military tensions through things like the
intra-Korean military talks."
"Is The U.S.’ Self-Assertiveness The Future For Korea-U.S.
Independent Dong-a Ilbo mused (6/9): "A strange mood dominated the Korea-U.S.
negotiations over the future of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), as the U.S. notified
Korea of its pullout plans for a portion of the USFK and the ninth round of the
Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative Talks (FOTA) ended inconclusively. It
appears increasingly unlikely that the issue of USFK, the cornerstone of the
Korea-U.S. alliance, would be addressed smoothly. Most of all, the way the U.S. led the talks
is more than unusual. At the FOTA, it demanded more land in Osan and Pyongtaek,
where it will move the USFK base in Seoul. It makes little sense that the U.S.
said it would cut U.S. military personnel in Korea by one-third while it
demanded more land for its new base site. This was why the FOTA broke down. It
diminished the title of the talk, the future of the alliance policy
initiative. The way the U.S. broke the
news of its troop cuts in Korea with us did not fit in with the 50-year history
of the two countries’ alliance. Last week, when the two countries’ ministers
met, there was no reference to the issue at all. When the U.S. notified Korea
of the cuts two days later, it was hardly considerate. “We may change the
timeframe of the reductions after taking Korea’s opinion into consideration,” a
U.S. senior official said. However, the reason why the U.S. does not disclose
the details of the reduction plans, which has reportedly been worked out, is
suspicious. USFK is the major axis in a
deterrent against North Korea. The Korean government has little option but to
perform complicated political calculations. It has to worry about ways to earn
time and cook the budgets to fill the security vacuum left by reductions in the
USFK. It cannot just overlook public opinion claiming that the size of the USFK
bases should be reduced because the number of troops will shrink. An ally
should understand the concerns of its ally.
Since USFK exists in the common interest of Korea and the U.S., the
scale and timing of the cuts will affect the two countries’ relations. If the
U.S. ignores the circumstances that Korea is in, the two countries’ relations
will slide from conflict into distrust."
"How Could Korean Government Say Now It Is Unprepared For
Conservative Chosun Ilbo opined (6/9): "The U.S. has apparently disclosed to
Korea its plan to reduce USFK by 12,500.
The size of the USFK reduction is not a particularly shocking matter
because it has been unofficially confirmed on numerous occasions. The problem is that the U.S. conveyed its
schedule to Korea before giving us the time enough to compensate for a combat
capability vacuum created by the withdrawal of its forces. Additionally, what is problematic is the way
the U.S. delivered its reduction plan to the Korean government. The U.S. side, in fact, 'notified' the Korean
side of its reduction plan. The U.S.
side did not appear to be interested in conducting “negotiations” on its
reduction plan. First of all, the
government should not try to gloss over the truth, saying, “There is no problem
with the Korea-U.S. alliance” but it must start trying to solve the problem and
honestly confess to the people the truth about the 'strained bilateral
alliance.' The U.S. side informed our
side of its plan to “keep 25,000 U.S. forces in Korea from 2006.” This notification is conspicuously different
from what our government has said to date.
If so, the government ought to reveal its plan about how we would be
able to make up for a security vacuum following the USFK reduction. Not only Korea, but also the U.S. has
vociferously spoken about an investment of $11 billion in the enhancement of
USFK combat capability as if it were a certified check. However, nothing has been specifically known
about when and how that money will be used to date. Reports have it that the Korean government
will increase defense spending by 2.3 percent to 3.2 percent of GDP. This notwithstanding, the government has
remained tight-lipped regarding how to raise the defense budget additionally or
whether it will formulate a new objective tax to beef up our defense
capabilities. What flabbergasted us is
that a relevant government official made a remark to the effect that '(The USFK
reduction) in 2005 will be difficult, taking into consideration the security
situation on the Korean peninsula and our preparations,' only after the U.S.
notification was delivered to our side.
The government acted as if it were undaunted in dealing with the USFK
reduction issue, saying, “The reduction cannot be stopped even if we cling to
the coattails of the U.S.” Then, what
the government uttered was empty talk?
The government plugged its ears to the people who voiced serious concerns
about the grave consequences that would arise following the USFK reduction. How could it be possible for the government
to say now it was unprepared for the reduction?
This government behavior has greatly frustrated and disappointed the
"Now That The Crisis Has Come"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo maintained (6/9): "A substantial withdrawal of U.S. forces
stationed on the peninsula has become a reality. The U.S. has notified Korea
that 12,500 U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. If a perfect contingency
plan existed, no one would bother being concerned, but watching the recent
developments regarding the matter, one has to worry. Especially the unexpected speed of the
reduction is of great concern because it is going to leave a big hole in our
security. It does not help that our own government's explanations regarding
this matter have been inconsistent. The
biggest problem is that our government is losing trust at home and abroad.
Starting last year, through press reports or hints from senior U.S. officials,
there were abundant signals of a reduction of U.S. forces on the Korean
Peninsula. Nevertheless, our government kept denying those reports until it
finally happened for real. In addition, a senior U. S. government official has
denied the claim by a Blue House official that the U.S. didn't want the matter
to be made public. It is no wonder that the claim by the defense minister that
the timing of the reduction can be adjusted falls on suspicious ears. Right
now, only a shadow of our alliance is left, and the relationship has become emotional. The government needs to make public what has
taken place so far regarding the reduction of U.S. forces. Who is telling the
truth needs to be determined. Because
the realignment of U.S. forces on the peninsula is part of a global strategy,
the reduction cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, it was the people's desire that
the reduction should take place at a pace that was in line with our ability to
bear the financial burden that comes with it and considered the North Korean
military threat. Now, this has become impossible, and we are left on our own to
provide security for our country and find a way to survive. The urgent thing is
to secure military power that can counter the North Korean military
threat. In security there are no holes
allowed, no matter how small they are. If the 2d Infantry Division leaves, we
are vulnerable to long-range artillery from the North. In order to counter that
threat, we have to purchase multiple launch rocket systems and accelerate our
plans to obtain a specific level of ability in self-defense by the year 2010.
An astronomical amount of money is needed to achieve that. Our government was notified last June of the
planned withdrawal of U.S. forces. Internally, the government should have
worked out a plan to cope with that change. What we need are more than abstract
phrases such as "cooperative self-reliant defense policy," or
"self-defense within the next ten years." The government has to let
the people know how much they have to shoulder and how it intends to come up
with the money. It's the first step toward regaining public confidence. Based
on that trust, the government has to come up with a solution that solves all
aspects of the problem that will be created by the withdrawal. An alliance policy is the best method to reduce
the security burden. Our government has to delay the timing of the planned
withdrawal until there is a proper plan in place, and it should negotiate so
that the intelligence system that cost an enormous amount of U.S. money will
remain here. Seoul needs to regain the trust of the U.S." nited States."
"Shocking U.S. Troop Reduction Might Undermine ROK-U.S.
Independent Dong-a Ilbo editorialized (6/8): “It is regrettable that the U.S. has decided
to pull 12,500 troops out of the ROK by 2005 with no regard for the ROK’s
special security situation. It is a
well-known fact that the security of the Korean peninsula is the weakest in the
world. Despite Washington’s $11 billion
military capability enhancement plan, we wonder if such a unilateral U.S. troop
pullout plan shows a ‘proper sense of duty’ as a 50-year-old ally. Nevertheless, the bigger problem lies in the
ROKG.... We suspect that the ROKG’s
easygoing attitude of neglecting the ROK-U.S. alliance and the USFK issue,
which are most important to the ROK’s future security, might have triggered
this situation. The ROKG must, without
delay, work out measures to minimize the fallout of the U.S. move.... More than anything else, the U.S. must not
press the size and timing of the USFK reduction in a unilateral manner, if it
respects the ROK-U.S. alliance and the concern of the Korean people.”
"The Need To Give Top Priority To National Interest In
Discussing USFK Reduction"
Moderate Hankook Ilbo declared (6/7): "Korea and the U.S. will discuss USFK
reduction in earnest. The Future of the
Korea-U.S. Alliance’s Policy Initiative talks (FOTA), which are slated to open
today, will extensively discuss the USFK reduction separately from the talks on
the relocation of Yongsan Garrison. A
plan to reduce USFK by 12,000 has been presented as if it were a
guideline. The focus of the talks is
expected to be the timing and size of the phased reduction. We hope that today’s FOTA talks will serve as
an opportunity for Korea and the U.S. to present their respective ideas of the
future of the bilateral alliance in a clearer manner. As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
National Defense Minister CHO Young-kil affirmed during their recent meeting in
Singapore, Korea and the U.S. have repeatedly vowed to seek ways to promote the
developmental alliance relationship as befits a rapidly changing security
environment. Nevertheless, the U.S. has
unilaterally outpaced Korea in dealing with the role of USFK and the nature of
the bilateral alliance, while our government has remained hesitant and
unprepared in handling those important issues.
For this exact reason, confusion is spreading in our society. Therefore, it would behoove the two countries
to explicitly clarify the strategic background of the USFK reduction and an
assessment regarding its impact on the security on the Korean peninsula. Then they need to stark talks. Doing so will contribute to preventing any
unnecessary controversy and social confusion from occurring, as well as making
it easier for the two nations to reach a concrete agreement. In particular, the U.S. should refrain from
seeking unilateral changes to the basic nature of the alliance, including the
issue of deploying Korea-U.S. combined forces abroad, and should show sincerity
in discussing ways to maintain combat capabilities on the Korea peninsula after
an expected USFK reduction, to say nothing of discussing the adjustment of the
roles of their combined forces.
Additionally, the U.S. must respect the Korean people’s perception of
their security and their feelings toward the U.S. Korea, for its part, should not hold onto
only the idea of delaying the USFK reduction, tenaciously adhering to the
necessity of dispelling public concerns about national security. Of course, this does necessarily mean that
the government should cling to the coattails of the U.S. In other words, in no way should our
government allow itself to give up just cause and practical benefits in order
to prevent an immediate drastic change in the alliance nor should it act as a
hindrance to dealing with such long-term crucial issues as expanding the scope
of the Korea-U.S. military alliance.
Both our government and the people alike must recognize the situation
currently facing the nation in a coolheaded fashion."
"Prerequisites For New Korea-U.S. Joint Security
Conservative Chosun Ilbo opined (6/7): "The Korean government is scrutinizing
the “Korea-U.S. Joint Security Declaration” in order to rebuild the alliance
between the two countries. As the press has reported that even Japan is worried
about the currently shaky Korea-U.S. alliance, the government is seemingly
attempting to prepare a breakthrough for a new alliance with the U.S., based on
the “U.S.-Japan Joint Security Declaration” that provided a turning point in
the security relationship between the U.S. and Japan in the 1990s. However, past U.S-Japan relations in which
the “U.S-Japan Joint Security Declaration” was born and current Korea-U.S.
relations are totally different, except for the insecure future of the
alliance. At that time, the U.S. and Japan had a vast human network across both
countries who shared worrisome views about the future of their alliance and
resolved the issue willingly. By contrast in the U.S., not only the State Department
and the Defense Department but also experts on Korea are saying that Korea is
no longer an area of interest. In Korea, people in charge of diplomacy and
security within the government are offering empty diplomatic rhetoric about
'cooperative independent defense,' neglecting the true meaning of an alliance.
Therefore, we cannot expect that the Korean government would move toward
strengthening support and cooperation for U.S. forces stationed here, as Japan
did for U.S. forces stationed on the islands despite fierce objections from
leftists, opposition parties and civic organizations. Accurate and realistic recognition of current
international relations and the security situation is the prerequisite to a new
security declaration between Korea and the U.S. The recent Korea-U.S.
relationship lacks this basic precondition. A typical example of such wrong
recognition is the mistaken understanding on the presence of U.S. forces in
Korea. Some say that U.S. forces are stationed here for their own purposes, not
for Korea’s interests. Behind this understanding lies the self-contradictory
logic that even if Korea demands that U.S. forces leave this country, they
would not. The U.S. unhesitatingly gave
up Subic [Bay] Naval Station and Clark Air Base in the Philippines, which were
crucial outposts in its Asia-Pacific strategy to secure maritime transportation
routes and to check the influence of China. The two bases’ strategic importance
was several times as great as those in Korea are. The U.S. said at that time that
it would not go to any country that doesn’t need the presence of U.S. forces.
The U.S. is telling Korea the same thing now.
The Korean government should recognize calmly and accurately the reality
and the meaning of the Korea-U.S. alliance before signing a new Korea-U.S.
joint security declaration. Otherwise, Korea would bear resemblance to the
Philippines, which is asking the U.S. to return to it only several years after
the departure of U.S. forces."
"An Alliance Going Out Of Tune"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo observed (6/7): "There are some confusing discrepancies
between Korean and U.S. claims about the reduction of U.S. troops in Korea. A
Blue House official said the U.S. government first informed the Korean government
of the troop reduction plans last September, refusing Seoul's request to make
the plans public. However, a White House official claimed at a meeting with
Korean journalists that there had been no one-sided order to keep the plans
quiet. Who's telling the truth? The government must produce a clear explanation
promptly. The troop reduction is a
crucial issue that will change the framework of our national security. To see
officials of the two governments out of tune on such an important question makes
the public very nervous. Have Korean-U.S. relations, as some assert, taken a
wrong turn? The White House official
added that the United States might have reconsidered the troop withdrawal had
his Korean counterparts said that Korea wanted the troops to stay. This could
be interpreted as meaning that the present Korean government gave the United
States the impression that it didn't think much of the role of U.S. troops on
the peninsula. Recently, Mitchell Reiss, director of policy planning at the
U.S. State Department, said that Korea is omitted from a list of "key
bilateral relationships" for the United States, a list that includes
Japan, China, India and Pakistan. What is happening to Korean-U.S. relations,
and what is our government's blueprint for the security of our nation? The troop relocation is part of a global
strategy, so there is no stopping it. However, it is the hope of the majority
of the people that the redeployment will be implemented smoothly and with close
cooperation, based on the spirit of the alliance. The government must not only
make public the talks' procedures, but also explain the U.S. strategy on Korea
and the government's plan to cope with it.
President Roh, on the occasion of Memorial Day on Sunday, said, "It
is natural that we defend our national security with our own hands." At
the same time, he said that we have to keep the South Korea-U.S. alliance sound
and strong. We expect that the follow-up measures necessary to implement the
president's words will be taken without fail sooner or later."
"It Is Time To Develop The ROK-U.S. Alliance In A Productive
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo editorialized (6/1): “Everyone agrees that, in order to cope with
a new global security environment, the U.S. strategy has to change and so does
the ROK-U.S. alliance. Nevertheless, for
most Koreans to watch a real reduction of USFK and see a fundamental change in
the bilateral alliance is a sad thing, especially given that ROK-U.S. talks on
such issues come during a situation where the North Korean nuclear crisis is
still in process, the alliance is on somewhat shaky terms and the most liberal
Korean administration ever is in place....
We truly hope that the upcoming two sets of bilateral meetings on the
status of the ROK-U.S. alliance and the security situation in Northeast Asia
will take part in drawing up a grand strategy for a future ROK-U.S. alliance
based on mutual trust. Needless to day,
the timing and size of the reduction should be decided with careful
consideration for the security situation on the peninsula.”
"Negotiations on USFK Reduction Call for Careful and Resolute
Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun commented
(5/31): “A change in the status of USFK
is bound to influence the realignment of the ROK military and relations between
the two Koreas. In particular, a
reduction/ redeployment of USFK and a change in its status might lead to an
unnecessary arms race in the region, unless the changes take place in sync with
progress in inter-Korean relations. This
is why we urgently need to work for peace and arms reductions on the
peninsula. There is even a possibility
that the upcoming USFK reduction talks might call for revision of the ROK-U.S.
Mutual Defense Treaty, opening the way for a fundamental change in our security
environment. It is high time for us to
face the situation in a resolute and careful manner.”
"Less Military Means More Peace"
Cheong Wook Sik of the Civil Network For A
Peaceful Korea wrote on the Korean-language leftist OhMyNews website
(5/24): "While shifting some of its
troops from South Korea to Iraq, the U.S. has decided to beef up its military
capability in and around the Korean peninsula to avoid a 'military
vacuum'.... This series of announcements
and movements lead us to believe that the U.S. is accelerating its military
beef-up with its shift to Iraq. Both the U.S. and Korean governments claim that
the strengthened military capability is enough to offset U.S. forces left in
Korea, thus avoiding a 'security vacuum.'
What makes the U.S. build up of naval and air forces in and around the
Korean peninsula possible while shifting some of land forces to Iraq is the
fact that the U.S. no longer needs to mobilize naval and air forces in
Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has been under pressure when it comes to land
forces. The changes in military
operations are in line with the new plan for U.S. forces in Korea to reduce
land forces while strengthening naval/air forces, intelligence capabilities and
missile defense capabilities. Here is
the problem. Military buildup in and around Korea to avoid a "security
vacuum" can create and heighten uncertainty. In other words, without any
progress in U.S.-North Korea relations, the changes in military power,
considering the U.S. adapted the preemptive strike doctrine against "rogue
states" such as North Korea "if necessary," can bring about a
backlash from North Korea. What we
should not forget is that this military buildup can cause a "security
dilemma" and exacerbate tensions in Korea. In this regard, the new
military plan may promote another arms race.
North Korea has been condemning the U.S. movement as a preliminary step
in its invasion of North Korea.... What
is even more troubling is that the transformation of U.S. troops in Korea may
lead South Korea to significantly increase its military budget out of fear of a
"security vacuum." Pledging "cooperative self-national
defense," the Roh administration has been promoting an increase in the
military budget. Its efforts were rewarded with substantial military budget
increase by 9 percent, which is relatively high considering the average budget
increase of 2.1 percent. Given this
trend, the argument for asking the government to use the reduction in the USFK
as an opportunity for national defense is highly likely to be the key to future
military budget increases. If this assumption comes true, it will be seen as an
act reversing the tide of defusing military hostilities and building
peace.... Therefore, the Roh
administration should change its view and see the reduction of USFK as an
opportunity for disarmament talks between the two Koreas or the U.S., South
Korea and North Korea. This will benefit all three parties and lay the
groundwork for "compromise" on the nuclear issue as well as
expediting the peace process here....
Although it sounds paradoxical, disarmament will be the first step for
South Korea to become more self-reliant.
Conservative media, experts and the Grand National Party (conservative
opposition party) exaggerate and reproduce the so-called 'security vacuum'
paranoia. It may be uncomfortable for the Korean people to see the U.S. pulling
even a few of its troops out of Korea.
But the "security vacuum" argument doesn't make much sense.
Without the strengthened military presence in and around Korea, the U.S.-Korea
alliance is seen to have already secured an "excessive" level of
deterrence against North Korea.
Excluding the U.S., South Korea has injected three to four times more
money than North Korea to buildup its military capability over the last 20
years. Today, South Korea's military budget is almost same as North Korea's
GDP. If South Korea is losing its ability to fight with North Korea despite all
the money it is poured in, the South Korean government is either lying to its
citizens or plagued with inefficiency.
North Korea is indeed a great military threat to South Korea. Even
though it is not able to win a war against South Korea, any military conflict
between the two Koreas will claim a lot of lives and result in widespread
damage. This means that preventing a war, at any cost, is a top priority. How to deal with the shocking news that the
United States is pulling out some of its forces stationed in Korea will be the
chance for both the Korean government and civil society to show how mature and
different Korean people are now. Also this should be a time to assess and
evaluate the real threat of North Korea and the current military status on the
Korean peninsula. In the meantime, the
reduction of USFK should be seen as an opportunity to promote disarmament in
the Korean peninsula. Excessive deterrence between two countries is just a
balance of terror. It will only result in a vicious circle of a 'security
“The New Regional Security Balance”
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald stated (6/15): "The role of the U.S. military in the
Asia region is undergoing a subtle but important shift. For more than half a
century the presence of substantial U.S. military bases in Japan and South
Korea, as well as close strategic ties between Washington and much of
South-East Asia, has reflected the region's pragmatism about American military
might…. Washington is moving away from the conventional security approach its
static north-east Asian military bases represent…. The proposal for joint
training facilities in northern Australia, which could bring thousands of
American troops to train at upgraded bases in the Northern Territory and far
north Queensland, is part of this new strategic vision. It has been welcomed by
the Australian Government. The compliance of other governments in the region,
however, is less certain. …the U.S. should expect its regional security plans
to come under increasing scrutiny in the region. Accordingly, so, too, will
Canberra's enthusiasm for training U.S. troops on Australian soil, and the more
intimate relationship with Washington that represents.”
CHINA (MACAU SAR):
"Southeast Asia Is Aware Of U.S. "
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked
(6/15): "The U.S. Pentagon recently
launched a global realignment plan of U.S. forces. The most startling move is the removal of
one-third of U.S. troops from South Korea and the cutting of two Army divisions
in Germany to cope with the new situation in the Middle East and Asia.... Southeast Asia's strategic position is very
important. Keeping channels such as
Malacca and Bashi Channel unblocked will be important for the normal operation
of the U.S. economic system. In order to
consolidate its leading position in Southeast Asia and to strengthen its
military existence to contain its potential rivals, the U.S. includes countries
in that area into its Asia-Pacific security system to ensure its influence over
major issues happening in the Asia-Pacific region. Facing U.S. overbearing and considering their
own interests, Southeast Asian countries all refused to be included. ASEAN countries generally believe that once
U.S. forces are stationed in their country, it will be difficult to ask them to
leave. Just as when the U.S. attacked
Afghanistan, the troops the U.S. stationed in Central Asia have not yet been
withdrawn. Besides, letting the U.S.
forces station in their countries may draw fire against oneself because it may
incur more terrorist attacks."
The independent, English-language left-leaning Japan
Times opined (6/15): "The
administration of President George W. Bush has recognized that new security
threats and new military capabilities require a new U.S. global defense
posture. Nowhere are those changes more evident than Northeast Asia, and on the
Korean Peninsula in particular. The redeployment of U.S. forces in South Korea
has profound implications for Japan, its alliance with the United States and
regional security.... In Northeast Asia,
the need for change seemed especially urgent: some 37,000 U.S. forces are tied
down in a less than optimal deployment; the troops are exposed to a North
Korean assault.... Many believe that
South Korea should do more to shoulder the burden of its own defense. An even
greater number are convinced that the trip-wire function is outdated: U.S.
troops do not need to be held 'hostage' to a North Korean attack to ensure a
U.S. response. That argument became even more compelling as U.S. forces were
needed in other theaters around the world.
Discussions between the U.S. and South Korea over the redeployment of
those forces have been under-way for some time. Although South Koreans have
long demanded a diminished U.S. military presence in their country--not unlike
Okinawans--opinion is divided: Many South Koreans still view the North with
concern and they fear that any cuts in U.S. forces would encourage adventurism
by Pyongyang. The need for a cooperative
solution has taken on additional urgency in recent weeks with the announcement
that 3,600 U.S. troops would be redeployed from South Korea for duty in Iraq.
While there has reportedly been no decision, there is little chance that those
troops would return to the South when that tour is complete. That withdrawal
would be part of a larger shift: earlier last week, the U.S. proposed that it
pull one-third of its troops out of South Korea by the end of next year. Talks between the two governments ended this
week without agreement. There are reports of considerable acrimony during the
discussions, not least because South Korea is offended by the notion of being
handed a fait accompli rather than being consulted on a matter that is vital to
its national security. Balancing U.S.
and South Korean imperatives should not be too difficult. South Korean
President Roh Moo Hyun has called on his nation to take a larger role in
providing for its own defense, while maintaining its alliance with the U.S.
South Korea's 650,000-member military is modern and well-equipped; while it is
outnumbered by the North Korean military, most analysts believe that it is more
than a match, especially with U.S. support.
The critical issue is how the redeployment takes place. The U.S. must
send no signal that its commitment to South Korea, or to Northeast Asian
security, is wavering.... Equally--if
not more--important is the need to ensure that Seoul feels as though it is a
full partner in this process. Allies must consult on critical decisions, and
officials in both governments insist that this is going on. No decisions have
yet been made. A unilateral decision by the U.S on a matter of vital concern to
South Korea would heighten feelings of unease and injustice in the South. It would
weaken the alliance. Washington must endeavor to ensure that this is a
consultative process. Japan is no
disinterested spectator in this process. The strength of the U.S. deterrent
matters greatly since this country would be involved in any Korean contingency.
Moreover, Washington's treatment of Seoul is indicative of how it treats its
other allies. The U.S. and Japan have a good record of mutual consultation, but
there have been several recent episodes....
Even more significant is the role that Japan will play as the U.S.
reconfigures its military presence in the region. In this new security
environment, the facilities at Yokosuka and Kadena become increasingly
important. Finding workable arrangements for U.S. forces in Japan is thus vital
to the future of the alliance, and the security of Japan and the entire region.
This is a critical element of Japan's international role and one which citizens
and decision makers alike must be prepared to support."
"Only Pyongyang Benefits From U.S.-ROK
Moderate Yomiuri declared (6/12): "Washington has informed Seoul of a plan
to withdraw 12,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea--one-third of the total
U.S. forces there--by the end of next year.
The move is part of a global redeployment of U.S. forces. The number of
U.S. troops in Germany is likely to be slashed, too. Washington's forward
deployment strategy, which puts 100,000 troops each in Europe and East Asia, is
going to change drastically. This is a
significant issue that directly affects the security of Japan. Will U.S. forces
in Japan be redeployed, too? Will the reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea
destabilize East Asia? Tokyo should
consult closely with Washington to prevent the peace and security of Japan from
being endangered. This is the first
reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea since 1990-92, when 7,000 troops were
pulled out. Washington had planned to cut an additional 6,500 troops at that
time, but shelved the plan due to North Korea's nuclear development program.
The latest reduction, however, will take place at a time when Pyongyang is
overtly developing nuclear weapons and deploying ballistic missiles. Deterrence against North Korea must not be
diminished. Washington last year compiled a budget totaling 11 billion dollars
(1.2 trillion yen) to boost U.S. forces' strength in South Korea. As the first
step, they were equipped with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, the most
sophisticated surface-to-air guided missiles. South Korea also is trying to
beef up its own national defense by increasing military spending. What is worrying is not the combat strength
of U.S. and South Korean forces, but the shakiness of their alliance. In mid-May, Washington suddenly announced a
decision to send a 3,600-strong brigade of its combat troops, the backbone of
U.S. forces in South Korea, to Iraq. The decision apparently was made to deal
with deteriorating security situations in the country. A problem was that Washington did not discuss
the transfer in enough depth with Seoul beforehand, though allies are supposed
to do so as a matter of course. The
timing of the reduction, which Washington said will be by the end of next year,
also has shocked South Korea. The U.S. and South Korean governments last year
agreed to move U.S troops gradually from their current position near the
Demilitarized Zone to rear areas south of Seoul. South Korea expected the
timing of the troop reduction to be around 2007, when relocation of U.S. troops
will be almost complete. The
misunderstanding developed from the two countries' differing perceptions of the
threat presented by North Korea. This perception gap is shaking the U.S.-South
Korean relationship. A lack of communication is bound to endanger any
alliance. An increasing number of South
Koreans, especially younger generations, have the twisted idea that the real
threat facing their country comes not from Pyongyang, but from Washington. This
idea has its roots in North-South summit talks four years ago whose only
achievement was to promote support for appeasement among South Koreans toward
North Korea. Some members of the ruling
Uri Party, which won the last general election, are demanding that the
government review the additional dispatch of South Korean troops to Iraq. This
has increased U.S. distrust of South Korea.
Disharmony in the U.S.-South Korea alliance cannot be allowed since it
will be exploited by North Korea. It is
important for Japan to make unstinting efforts to uphold its alliance with the
"Cut in US Forces in the ROK; Time To Hold
Japan-US-ROK Talks Now"
Conservative Sankei maintained
(6/9): "There is no doubt that a
change in the U.S. forces in South Korea will have a serious impact on the
security of Japan and East Asia.... The
problem is whether South Korea will be able to effectively make up for the
cut.... It can be said that the U.S. has
given up on South Korea, where anti-US feelings have burst.... A shaky U.S.-ROK relationship in the alliance
may send a wrong message to North Korea....
We hope for Japan-US-ROK consultations on the troop cut since the fate
of North Korea's nuclear programs and missiles is also a serious concern for
"Cut In U.S. Forces In The ROK Should Not
Lead To Increased Tension"
The liberal Tokyo Shimbun concluded
(6/9): "The increasing number of
U.S. personnel dispatched to Iraq and growing anti-American sentiments in South
Korea are probably behind the U.S. decision.
Although the troop cut is inevitable...it is important that the
reduction should not give North Korea the wrong impression.... We urge a rebuilding of U.S.-ROK relations
and beefing up a tie-up in various fields....
It is important that mutual understanding between the South and the
North should be promoted...they could exchange views on U.S. troop reductions,
taking every opportunity for dialogue....
The troop cut will surely impact the U.S. forces in Japan...we hope the
government can prevent the troop cut from leading to strengthened or expanded
functions for U.S. forces in Japan."
"How To Address Dilemma Arising From Force Reductions In
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai stated (6/9): "Japan has a strong interest in the
proposed cut of U.S. forces in South Korea, as it may send the wrong signal to
North Korea.... The plan risks
aggravating Washington's relationship with Seoul. The current bilateral relations are less than
good. Except for diplomatic, rhetorical
niceties, there is mutual distrust between them. The situation is unfavorable considering the
North Korean nuclear crisis. We want the
U.S. and South Korea to do their utmost to ensure that the proposed cutback
will not negatively impact the bilateral alliance."
"Military Realignment Also Concerns Japan"
Liberal Asahi concluded (6/9): "It is difficult to make a definitive
judgment on the planned reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea. But trilateral coordination between the U.S.,
Japan and South Korea will be badly affected, if Washington's relationship with
Seoul turns sour over the proposed withdrawal.
U.S. military transformation also affects Japan. Marines on Okinawa and
the U.S. Air Force in Japan are deployed primarily to deal with a possible
crisis on the Korean Peninsula. It is
likely that a cutback and realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea will lead
to the strengthening of U.S. military capabilities in Japan.... We need to carefully monitor the ongoing
transformation so that the U.S. force realignment does not result in the
further integration of Japan's SDF into U.S. military operations."
THAILAND: “Korea Peace Is
Still A Formidable Goal”
The lead editorial in top-circulation, moderately-conservative,
English-language Bangkok Post read (6/14): “One reason the U.S. can consider a pullback
is small steps of reconciliation from Pyongyang.... The agreement announced last week was all the
more optimistic because it came during seemingly desultory military talks that
seemed to be going nowhere. The new deal
calls for the North and South Korean militaries to build trust on some of the
world's choicest crabbing grounds off the DMZ.... All of this is good news in one of the
world's most dangerous regions. The U.S. troop adjustment and helping crab
fishermen to prosper peacefully are welcome steps. But they do not even address
the major problems of the area. North
Korea remains one of the world's scariest regimes. Its unabashed insistence on developing
nuclear weapons and bigger, longer-range missiles to carry them puts neighbors
as far away as Thailand in danger. Worse
even than this, Pyongyang insists on the right to traffic technology and
equipment to any regime or movement....
South Korea, its neighbors and America all are working to convince
Pyongyang it is welcome in the world community of nations if it acts more
responsibly for peace. In that sense, it
is heartening to see North Korea's small step to cooperate with the South in
the disputed crab grounds. Such
decisions could encourage Pyongyang to consider the larger impact of
cooperation with its neighbors on terrible weapons.”