The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: ROK-US Issues (page 2 of 71)

Losers, NLL transcript, invisible US ambassador, Japan and UNESCO redux, complaining foreigners, pretty shaved heads and Lego

Losers

With guys like this running the Ministry of Defense, is it any surprise they’re dragging their feet with the transfer of wartime operational command?

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency touched off a furor by saying at a National Assembly audit that South Korea would “lose” in a one-on-one war with North Korea.

South Korea’s 2013 military spending is 33 to 34 times more than North Korea‘s.

Speaking at the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee annual audit of his office at the Ministry of National Defense on Nov. 5, Cho Bo-geun reportedly responded to a question about who would win in a war between South Korea and North Korea by saying, “If we fight as an alliance with the US under the current operational plan, we‘ll win by an overwhelming margin. If South Korea fights alone, North Korea has the superior fighting strength, so South Korea would lose.”

Twice the population, a military budget 34 times the size of North Korea’s, an economic gap that looks like this, and you still think you’d lose?

I just don’t know what to say, other than the Defense Ministry should hire Doug Bandow as a consultant or something.

Which way did the transcript go, George? Which way did it go?

More nonsense with the NLL:

“People all know that President Roh Moo-hyun guarded the NLL (Northern Limit Line),” Moon told reporters before his questioning. “The transcript [of the summit] is intact.

“The crux of this matter is that the ruling party and the National Intelligence Service abused the transcript stored at the NIS by distorting its contents for [last year’s] presidential election,” said Moon, who was also the Democratic Party candidate defeated in last year’s presidential election.

When asked by reporters why the transcript wasn’t transferred to the National Archives, Moon did not answer.

He’s probably right about the NIS using the transcript for political purposes in the last election. As far as everyone knowing that Roh defended the NLL, I’d say recent elections and polling would suggest that’s far from the case.

US ambassador needs to drink more

Somebody at the JoongAng Ilbo apparently doesn’t think US Ambassador Sung Kim is drinking enough:

Modesty and passiveness are different. Kim’s background is too special for him to be just another ambassador.

Because he is the first Korean-American to be appointed U.S. ambassador to Seoul, and because he is the forerunner for other people of Korean descent who will take senior posts in other countries, our expectations are high.

It is not too late. We want to see His Excellency Kim meeting Koreans over glasses of makgeolli during the rest of his term.

There seems to be some confusion here, and I’ve noticed it with previous ambassadors here, too. More specifically, it sometimes seems the media expects the US ambassador to represent Korean interests to the US government. Sure, I guess in terms of public policy, it doesn’t hurt to mix with the locals. Could be fun, too. But that’s not his job.

Oh, not this again…

The JoongAng Ilbo thinks the Japanese are being insensitive by pushing the registration of their modern cultural heritage with UNESCO:

Japan was a regional front-runner when it came to industrialization and economic success. The government is seeking to register its early industrial sites as Unesco World Heritage sites to rekindle pride in its economic legacy. Doing so, however, the country has once again demonstrated insensitivity toward its neighbor. Eleven out of the 28 “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” it plans to seek for UN recognition in February 2015 served as labor camps for Korean prisoners and civilians during World War II.

At least 1,481 Koreans were forced to work as slaves in sites that include a shipyard in Nagasaki, a defunct coal mine and a steel mill in Fukuoka, according to a study by the Prime Minister’s Office.The Hashima coal mine was notoriously referred to as the “island of hell” because Koreans were forced to work for 12 hours a day in pits of 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) below the surface. Few Koreans came out alive or even healthy.

Any country is entitled to vie for international recognition and protection for its heritage and cultural properties under the World Heritage Treaty of 1972. The places Japan wants to list as World Heritage sites may be valuable assets to the Japanese, but they trigger bitter and painful memories for Koreans. It is spiteful to honor its past glory at the expense of others’ pain.

I’ve already explained why I think this is a losing fight for the Korean side here.

Sometimes, this blog just writes itself

OK, it’s a bit dated, but in case you missed the Korea Times piece about the gay American pastor in HBC complaining about Korea’s homophobic textbooks, then you also missed this beauty from an Education Ministry official—be warned, though, that you should not be drinking anything when you read it, especially coffee, which can be especially difficult to wipe off your monitor:

“Every country has its own set of laws in evaluating and approving the education material for books. I don’t know if it’s appropriate for a foreigner to judge how we manage our education. You won’t see us commenting how other countries teach at schools.”

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing.

Like a very pretty bhikkhunī

Say what you will about Rep. Kim Jae-yeon’s politics—needless to say, I’m not a fan of her party. Still, she does look good with a shaved head.

Lego screwing Korea

Or that’s what some folk are complaining, anyway:

“Lego is too expensive, that’s why moms usually band together and make bulk purchases through the Internet,” Park Jin-hai, 38, a mother of two kids aged nine and six, said.

“Moms all know Lego is expensive, but we have no choice because kids love it. Also, it is difficult to find individual stores and service centers where customers can get the customer service in person,” Park added.

“Lego uses its international economic scale to raise awareness and the price here. Comparably smaller Korean toy firms cannot win with those strategies,” a market insider added.

Foreign coffee chains, outdoor fashion brands, Danish toy companies… when will these outrages stop?

Spy Games

There’s now speculation about what President Park will do should is be learned that the United States bugged her phone. The Chosun Ilbo seems to think it did:

The U.S. government promised Korea to “review intelligence activities” after Seoul asked whether the National Security Agency wiretapped the Korean Embassy in Washington. This is seen as tantamount to an admission that it did.

“Seoul had demanded that Washington verify rumors about wiretapping and make its position clear,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said Tuesday. “The U.S. has said it understands allies’ worries and promised to review intelligence activities.”

Given Korea’s own forays—not always successful—into the realm of cloak-and-dagger skulduggery, I really don’t know what Cheong Wa Dae will say should it be confirmed that the NIS eavesdropped on them. A DP lawmaker, meanwhile, is claiming the US may have been peaking at Korea’s cards during the FTA negotiations.

On the other side of the ledger, Foreign Policy has run a piece on US concerns that South Korea may be stealing its weapons technology:

But just beneath that relationship’s surface is a growing unease. South Korea, one of America’s strongest partners in East Asia, is aggressively targeting U.S. advanced technology for its own use in a variety of Korean weapons programs, Foreign Policy has learned. From anti-ship missiles, electronic warfare equipment, torpedoes, a multiple-launch rocket system, and even components on a Korean-made Aegis destroyer, the United States is concerned about the uncanny resemblance those systems bear to American weaponry. Even the tanks Hagel watched on the range that day may be partial knock-offs: The Korean models have fire control systems that appear to be all-but-identical to the American versions.

Though the United States long has had systems in place to monitor technology-sharing with allies, the case with South Korea has become particularly acute in the last few years. As the United States pivots East and Asia’s once sleepy defense industries begin to awaken, it has quietly begun to scrutinize its technology-sharing relationships with such allies, conducting secret but robust “dialogues” — diplomatic-speak for a series of private exchanges on tech-sharing between the two countries — to ensure that American secrets stay that way.

This is particularly relevant at a time when Korea is considering the purchase of the F-35:

Right now, the dialogue between the two countries is focused heavily on the potential sale of the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the South Koreans. American officials are putting into place a strict security agreement to ensure that nothing is shared, either with the wrong people, or for use by a buyer of a Korean-made copycat for Korea’s own competitive purposes. The South Koreans are interested in the F-35, but their interest comes at the same time as South Korea’s bid to build its own stealth jet, raising bureaucratic eyebrows in the United States. It could be the equivalent of South Korea taking a fighter jet on a test drive, as it were, flying it around the corner to kick its tires, only then to return it to the dealership and say it’s not interested, but first looking under the hood and taking some pictures.

Some quarters of the Korean press claim US concerns are more about competition from Korea in the global arms market. Like US concerns about theft, I’m sure there’s some truth to that, too.

(HT to Wangkon)

Seoul says no to US missile defense initiative

Korea will not joint the US-led missile defense initiative, but will go its “own path”:

Currently, South Korea is building an independent, low-tier missile shield called the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system with a plan to upgrade PAC-2 missiles to PAC-3.

“Unlike the U.S. missile defense system covering its mainland, Hawaii and Guam, the KAMD system is aimed at only intercepting missiles from North Korea,” Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told reporters.

“Considering need, suitability and budget availability, we will not join the U.S. missile defense system, but take our own path.”

Presumably, this is to prevent diplomatic problems with China. What’s interesting—other than the fact that Korea apparently expects the United States to help protect it from missile attack but doesn’t feel it should help stop a missile attack on the United States, let alone Japan—is that some felt the proposed delay in transferring wartime operational command had something to do with Korean participation in the US-led MD program:

The unscheduled press briefing is seen as the ministry’s move to preemptively calm down growing speculation that the postponement of wartime operational control (OPCON) may have to do with South Korea’s participation in the U.S. missile defense system. The OPCON transition is scheduled for December 2015, but South Korea has asked the U.S. side to reconsider the handover, citing changed security situation on the Korean Peninsula due to rising North Korean threats.

However, the minister denied it, saying “There was no missile defense discussion in tandem with the OPCON issue.”

One would hope this has an impact on the discussions on the delay. But I doubt it.

Great role for Japan in military matters?

It looks like the United States is supporting an enlarged role for Japan in security and military matters:

The foreign affairs and defense chiefs of Japan and the United States agreed Thursday to revise bilateral defense cooperation guidelines by the end of 2014 so the joint security alliance reflects rising threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the “two-plus-two” meeting, in which the participants for the first time in Tokyo involved all the heads of their respective ministries, the four agreed that the guidelines, last revised in 1997 to outline how the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military should cooperate, must be changed to take into account the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear threats, as well as cyber-attacks and terrorism.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and their American counterparts, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, also confirmed that steps would be taken to reduce the concentration of U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

As if to highlight the irony, when I walked into work this morning, there were two newspapers on the table—the Chosun Ilbo with an article on the front page about the US supporting Japan’s enlarged military role, and the Hankyoreh with a front-page article about Korea delaying the transfer of wartime operational command.

Anyway, in its editorial on the matter, the Chosun Ilbo warned the United States that it would first need to earn the understanding and agreement of nations victimized by Japanese imperialism before it expanded security cooperation between Korea, Japan and the United States. In particular, Washington can no longer be a bystander in Korea—Japan historical disputes. It must clearly convey to Japan what its historical duties are and warn Tokyo against actions that run counter to those duties.

Mind you, the Chosun doesn’t oppose greater tripartite security cooperation. It just thinks a) Korea needs time to convince the people why its necessary and b) the United States needs to lean on the Japanese to play nice. Oh, and Korea needs to consider how to ensure such cooperation doesn’t lead to problems with China. Good luck with that.

I like the F-15 as much as the next guy, but…

With the final selection of Korea’s next-generation fighter set for Sep 24, we’ve got quite a few folk unhappy with the sole choice on the table, the F-15 Silent Eagle.

And by “quite a few unhappy folk,” I include 15 former chiefs of the ROKAF, who naturally wonder why Korea should be buying a “next-generation” fighter based on a 40-year-old airframe:

“We can’t just choose minicars over sedans because they are cheap,” said Kim Hong-rae who served as the air force chief of staff in 1994 and 1995.

“Like the United States and Japan, we need F-35s as fifth-generation aircraft. We can wait another one or two years, looking ahead 40 years, with the finally selected fighter jets,” Kim told Reuters, referring to any delay if the current process is cancelled.

The “F-15SE is still a paper airplane under development based on 1970′s models, which raises lots of questions on the effectiveness” of upgrading the F-15 platform, the statement said. “Japan recently bought 42 F-35s and the crucial weapons system to deter North Korea’s threats is a stealth fighter,” it added.

Of course, the problem with the F-35 is that exceeds the budget allocate for the project (probably something that would apply to the United States, too. Just ask John McCain). That and there were quite a few questions about the fighter even before it was disqualified for cost reasons.

In the end, the F-15SE may get disqualified, too, since it is only partially stealthy. The ROKAF—and more vocally, its former chiefs—wants a fully stealth aircraft to scare the crap out of the North Koreans—the appearance in Korea of American F-22s was enough to keep late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il indoors, after all. And yeah, China and Japan are developing/buying them, so Korea needs them, too. Or so the argument goes.

On the other hand, some argue against getting too fixated on stealth. Nothing is completely stealth, and at any rate, the Russians and Japanese are working on new radar systems to detect stealth fighters. Besides, for the cost of buying stealths, it might be more effective to buy more of the cheaper stuff to attack the North with after North Korea’s air defense system has been neutralised by missiles or American stealth aircraft. Or so some government official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Korea asks to postpone operational command transfer. Again.

We’re never going to transfer wartime operational command, are we?

A top U.S. government official said Tuesday South Korea has requested another delay in the schedule to regain operational control (OPCON) of its troops in the event of war.

“I know that has been proposed by the South Korean government, and we are looking at that, working with the South Korean government,” the official told Yonhap News Agency on background.

Related consultations are under way between the allies, with the White House and the State Department handling the issue, added the official.

He emphasized that the U.S. would not “abruptly make decisions that would impair or endanger the security of South Korea.”

“We need to keep working on this,” he said.

Keep working on this? I thought we did work on it—two Korean presidential administrations ago.

To be fair to the Korean side, I don’t think the Koreans ever wanted to take back wartime operation command in the first place. That is to say, I believe it was something forced on Korea by the Americans as a result of then-President Roh Moo-hyun doing what he did best—miscalculating:

When then President-elect Roh mentioned in December 2001 a review of bilateral relations with the U.S., Rumsfeld ordered the U.S. Defense Department to accept Roh`s request. Having wanted Seoul to raise its financial contribution to U.S. forces in South Korea, Rumsfeld must have rejoiced when Roh later urged Washington to return wartime operational command to Seoul. People will wonder if Roh was aware that his bid to get South Korea more independent from the U.S. instead helped Washington to get what it had long wanted.

Or read that in Rummy’s own words here.

The thing is, though, that Rumsfeld was right, and a transfer of command is probably in the long-term best interests of both allies. If left up to the Korean side, however, the transfer won’t happen, so the Americans need to move it along.

So, just how are the Koreans taking having their embassy bugged?

The answer is—well, they’re not especially happy, but they’re not raising a shit storm, either.

Or, as Yonhap’s Washington correspondent put it, the government and Korean embassy are reacting cautiously to the reports.

The Foreign Ministry has asked the United States for an explanation, and the Democratic Party is demanding the government ask Washington for an apology, going as far as to say that Korea is the only country that hasn’t expressed outrage about the Guardian report.

The problem is that, like pretty much everybody else, the Koreans spy on allies and business partners, sometimes to great comedic effect. And let’s not get started on the French. This is why, as a diplomatic source told one Yonhap, nations have a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regards to leaked national secrets.

Roh agreed to abandon NLL: National Assembly intel committee lawmakers

Saenuri Party lawmakers on the National Assembly intelligence committee say they’ve read the sections of the conversation record from the 2007 inter-Korean summit where President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il discussed the West Sea NLL, reports the Chosun Ilbo.

And more to the point, they say Roh made a statement that suggested he wanted to abandon the NLL. To sum up, Roh said he agreed with Kim that the NLL needed to be changed and called for it to be turned into a “zone of peaceful cooperation.” Kim responded by suggesting Roh abandon its laws regarding the NLL so that the two sides could enter working-level discussions on creating said zone, to which Roh said, “Yes, fine.”

They also said the sanctions the US placed on BDA in 2005 were a “clear American blunder.” Best of all, Roh also told Kim that if you poll South Koreans, the country they hate the most is the United States. When asked which nation threatens peace the most, South Koreans respond with the United States at No. 1, Japan at No. 2 and then North Korea.

Lovely.

Much, much more here. The stuff in these documents come from NIS reports in 2009 when the LMB administration was secretly preparing for a possible summit with the North. Wanna play a game? Guess which leader said the following about the BDA sanctions, Roh and Kim Jong-il:

“분명히 얘기를 하는데… BDA 문제는 미국의 실책인데… 북측에 손가락질하고 북측보고 풀어라 하고, 부당하다는 거 다 알고 있습니다.… 뭐 제일 큰 문제가 미국입니다. 나도 역사적으로 제국주의 역사가 사실 세계 인민들에게 반성도 하지 않았고 오늘날도 패권적 야망을 절실히 드러내고 있다는 인식을 갖고 있으며 저항감도 가지고 있습니다.”

If you guessed Roh, you would have guessed right. Among other things, Roh also apparently expressed a desire to build a light water reactor for the North instead of the United States, bragged about sinking OPLAN 5029, and much, much more. Oh, and as for Kim Jong-il supposedly agreeing to the stationing of US troops in Korea during the 2000 summit with Kim Dae-jung, what KJI actually said appears to be more along the lines of “the US troop presence is useful because I can use it to drum up anti-American sentiment at home.” Which is remarkably frank, but also not the line of steaming BS the DJ administration tried to sell the South Korean and American publics.

PS: Yes, the reason the Chosun is going big with this is probably to distract the public from the ever growing evidence that the NIS was engaged in some serious nonsense during the last presidential election. It’s still fun reading through this stuff, though.

What? We sold a cruise missile to the Finns, but we won’t sell them to the Koreans?

Korea is soon to be the brand new owners of some nice, shiny Taurus air-to-ground standoff cruise missiles for their fleet of F-15s.

The bunker-busting missiles are made by German-Swedish partnership. Seoul was apparently interested in a US missile, the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JASSM, but Washington reportedly refused to sell them to Korea. OK, fair enough—there’s no obligation to sell, after all. What I don’t get is that the JASSM’s current users are the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and Finland—yes, Finland, the nation that brought you Nokia, Linux, Angry Birds and, more to the point here, Finlandization. I guess what I’m having difficulty processing here is why we’d sell advanced cruise missiles to a nation that spent much of the Cold War kissing the Soviets’ asses (admittedly, a decision that wasn’t entirely their fault), but we WON’T sell it to a nation that’s been one of our most steadfast allies since 1953.

Competing interventions in North Korea

In the Korea Times, John Burton discusses OPLAN 5029, possible unilateral Chinese military intervention into North Korea and the risk of a Sino-American clash.

It’s an interesting piece, although I do wonder about some of the premises, though. For instance:

Since the 1990s, the U.S. and South Korea have been preparing contingency plans, known as OPLAN 5029, for dealing with “sudden change” in North Korea. Although few details are publicly known, OPLAN 5029 calls for U.S. and South Korean military forces entering North Korea to secure nuclear and military facilities and provide humanitarian assistance under what is known in Washington as the responsibility to protect (R2P) concept.

There are several obvious difficulties in carrying out OPLAN 5029, however. One is that the rapid deployment of U.S. and South Korean forces large enough to secure order might be hampered by the presence of the heavily fortified DMZ. Another is the likely hostile reaction of the North Korean population to presence of soldiers from the U.S., a country that has been demonized in the North for more than 60 years.

OK, I certainly accept that it’s possible the North Korean population would be hostile to US troops. I’m just not sure if it it’s likely to be so. Sure, Pyongyang has demonized the US for six decades, but it’s spent a good part of that time brutalizing its own people, too. US troops now operate in lots of countries that spent the Cold War demonizing the United States. Japan spent the war years demonizing the hell out of the United States, but US occupation troops met no major hostility. My own prediction is that in the event of a North Korean collapse, the general population may be simply too traumatized to care who is occupying them, be it the United States, South Koreans or Chinese. I’m also guessing that American troops would be a secondary presence behind South Koreans troops, a fact that might allow an occupation to go down better with the locals.

Then again, nobody is likely to know until the troops start moving.

About possible Chinese plans to occupy parts of North Korea—the so-called Chick Plan—Burton writes:

China already has large military forces stationed along the North Korean border and it could probably execute a rapid occupation, particularly given its knowledge of local conditions. Although it is uncertain what the reaction of North Koreans would be to the presence of Chinese troops on their soil, it is likely to be less hostile than that the U.S. military would face because of the long history of close Sino-North Korean ties.

Again, I accept it’s quite possible that North Koreans would react better to Chinese troops on their soil than American ones. But would the Chinese likely be accepted better than the Americans? Again, I don’t know. China has enjoyed relatively close ties with North Korea for a long time, but then again, many North Koreans may privately blame China for keeping the Kim Dynasty in power. The former British ambassador to North Korea noted that North Koreans are not especially fond of their Chinese allies, finding them, among other things, smelly and arrogant. I’m sure Chinese boots on the ground will prompt fear in at least some North Koreans that China intends to annex the North.

Awesome photo from Key Resolve

Came across this Reuters/Yonhap photo taken last month during the Korea—US Key Resolve exercise while at the office yesterday.

Anti-American types set fire to English hagwon in Daegu

From the Dong-A Ilbo:

A handmade bomb exploded at a private English academy for elementary students in Daegu. There were no casualties because it happened before the academy opened class for the day. Fliers signed in the name “anti-American, anti-fascist struggle committee” were scattered at the facility.

A loud bang sounded on the third floor at a building in Manchon-dong in Daegu around 7:07 a.m. on Monday. Housed at the building is “American Culture Center (in Korean), or Independent Center for American Studies Daegu’ in English.” A 41-year-old nurse working at a clinic on the ninth floor at the building said, “Smoke came out from downstairs, and papers were seen scattered.”

Doors to the academy and a portion of the lobby were smoked. Five A4-size papers collected from the site had a message reading, “The U.S. committed brutal crimes against the Korean people over the past 100 years. Worse yet, it is moving to cause a nuclear warfare in this country. It is time that we severe malign ties with the U.S. Yankees, you should be ready to leave.” It was signed in the name of anti-American, anti-fascist struggle committee.

The perps apparently believed the hagwon to be an official American cultural center. Clearly not the smartest communists in the world. Or perhaps just desperately nostalgic ones.

Yonhap is reporting there was no bomb, but the two men did light a fire. Daegu’s Finest have also released a photo of the suspects:

PYH2013042302080005300_P2_59_20130423113622

(HT to Dan)

US attitude on nuclear agreement no way to treat an ally: Chosun Ilbo

Ye Olde Chosun is not happy about the failure of recent talks in Washington to amend South Korea’s 40-year-old atomic energy agreement with the United States.

The chief point of contention is that the Koreans would like to enrich uranium and reprocess used fuel rods. Because of the current ban on enrichment, Korea must not only import raw uranium, but also send it to a foreign firm for processing into usable nuclear fuel. This is expensive and also poses a problem when Korea exports reactors.

The ban on reprocessing, meanwhile, means Korea must store perfectly usable fuel rods, and by 2024, there will be no more room to put ‘em.

The United States opposes all of this because of concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons—with North Korea conducting three nuclear tests, even if Korea starts off enriching and reprocessing for peaceful purposes, the Americans don’t know where it will lead. Or so says the Chosun.

In particular, the Chosun didn’t like US chief negotiator Robert J. Einhorn, who is a specialist on non-proliferation. They said he not only refused to look at the issue in the bigger picture of the Korea—US alliance, but also didn’t care about Korea’s desperate situation with the country being pushed over the edge due to the reprocessing issue. They wondered if he might be called the “non-proliferation Taliban” even within the United States.

The Chosun Ilbo noted that President Park asked for US understanding in the talks when she met with US officials even prior to taking office, and that the United States permitted—wait for it, wait for it—Japan to reprocess fuel and enrich uranium in the 1980s. Despite this, the United States strongly opposes Korea doing the same. Anyway, the Chosun said this US attitude shown so far in the negotiations is distrust of Korea, and this approach is not how you treat an ally of 60 years.

Marmot’s Note: Mind you, I actually agree that Korea should be allowed to reprocess fuel and enrich uranium, and the Chosun has a point—which I neglected to put in the summary—when it notes that the nuclear agreement was signed at a time when Korea didn’t have a single nuclear reactor. It now has 23 and exports them to places like the UAE.

Of course, I also think South Korea should be developing it’s own nuclear deterrent, so obviously, I don’t share Washington’s non-proliferation concerns. And the Chosun would have done well if it had also noted that perhaps some of the distrust comes from the fact that not only did the father of the current president try to develop nuclear weapons in the 1970s, but major South Korean politicians are openly calling for South Korea to begin developing them again… on US soil, no less.

To be fair to the Chosun Ilbo, though, I agree with them a whole lot more than I agree with the New York Time’s editorial on the Korea—US nuclear talks.

And on the USFK front…

- In a statement to the VOA’s Korean service, former USFK commander BB Bell said discussion of transferring wartime operational command from the United States to Korea should be put off indefinitely, a reversal of his previous support for the transfer.

Bell thinks with North Korea threatening the South and the United States with nukes, the need to aggressively deter the North has grown and the United States should lead this process.

He did say South Korea’s war fighting capacity was far better than the North’s, but as long as North Korea had nukes, South Korea would be in a seriously disadvantaged position on the battlefield or at the negotiating table.

Accordingly, the North Korean nuclear issue has become a core matter of US national security and as long as North Korea has a nuclear capacity, Korean—US allied forces should operate under US command.

- Speaking of BBs, two soldiers have been charged for their role in last month’s BB attacks and car chase.

- Would the USFK dependents please stop stealing from Yongsan Electronics Market. We thank you for your cooperation.

North Korea ain’t our problem: Bandow and others

Doug Bandow is using the opportunity afforded by the latest “crisis” to tell folk what he’s been telling them for as long as I can remember—that we should wash our hands of North Korea and let South Korea defend itself:

Although well able to deter North Korean adventurism, South Korea preferred to rely on America than to build up its own defensive force. Thus, a security guarantee which originally safeguarded Asia’s Cold War boundary turned into a wasteful international dole. The ROK—which has soared into the economic stratosphere—became a foreign variant of the famed “welfare queen,” abusing the system and living off of American taxpayers.

Today Washington is essentially broke. The national debt exceeds $16.5 trillion. Toss in all of Uncle Sam’s obligations, including unfunded liabilities, and Americans are on the hook for more than $220 trillion, about 14 times the annual GDP. Yet U.S. troops remain in South Korea. International welfare continues to flow.

And Washington’s presence in the ROK has turned the U.S. into a target of North Korea’s wrath.

The sentiments are shared, unsurprisingly, by Pat Buchanan (HT to Parapundit), but with added bad advice (“Obama should pick up the phone, call North Korea and talk directly to Kim”). The were also echoed by Chateau Heartiste (HT to sid hartha), a blog I’d learned about a while ago through an episode of Radio Derb.

What was sort of interesting about Bandow’s column is that I learned about it via a story in Korea’s Newsis with two Chinese scholars arguing against Bandow—to sum up, they say South Korea and Japan won’t be able to convince North Korea to play nice, and it’s all rhetoric to get China to do more; if the United States left South Korea, it would weaken faith in US security guarantees elsewhere and cause greater instability as countries boosted their own defensive capabilities; and yeah, South Korea and Japan would spend more defense and possibly lead to a global nuclear arms race and an end to the nonproliferation regime. All of which sounds like very nice reasons why China would want the United States to continue keeping troops in Korea, but I’m not sure why any of those things should concern the United States.

On a related note, the JoongAng Ilbo reports that Washington is examining the feasibility of returning forward-deployed nukes to Korea.

UPDATE: A friend emails me:

i find it annoying this air time and credence you give to Bandow and his silly ideas the NK is not the US’ problem.

For what it’s worth, while I agree with Bandow that the Korea—US alliance, at least in its current form, is anachronistic and should be revised to reflect South Korea’s growth into an economic and military powerhouse, I don’t think it would be such a hot idea to cut the South Koreans off at their diplomatic knees by pushing such a revision RIGHT NOW.

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