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Tag: ROK-US alliance

MUST READ: Rough waters for the ROK—US Alliance

Over at the Diplomat, Zachary Keck writes about some of the issues currently plaguing the Korea—US alliance.

To sum up, we’re talking about missiles, nuclear issues and Japan.

In other words, at a time when the region is undergoing sweeping changes, the U.S. is increasingly less confident that South Korea will continue to rely on Washington for its security indefinitely. Indeed, there are already a number of signs that Seoul is seeking greater autonomy. These come at a time when the U.S. will need South Korea more than ever in order to properly rebalance its forces in the region.

I’ve made my views on these issues well-known—I think the missile agreement needs to go, I’d like to see South Korea go nuclear and I’d love to see closer security cooperation between Korea and Japan.

Still, I’m afraid we may be viewing what is the high point of Korea—US relations. Sure, missiles and nukes are important, but they’re not what really concerns me. What concerns me is that President Lee’s term is almost over, and if the opposition wins the next presidential election, it could very well mean a return to all the bullshit that plagued Korea—US relations under Roh Moo-hyun. In case anyone has forgotten what that entailed, it included differing views over North Korea, China, Japan and the very meaning of the Korea—US alliance. When that happens, disagreements over missiles and nuclear reprocessing will seem like a welcome respite.

(HT to Infidelworld)

So… are you suggesting we DON’T share common values?

The progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun is taking the Foreign Ministry and security-related bodies to task for behaving excessively anti-North Korean and pro-American, saying it reveals obsolete Cold War attitudes.

Firstly, the Kyunghyang took exception with a notice sent to 10 Korean diplomatic legations overseas asking that Korean travelers refrain from using North Korean restaurants.

The embassies had posted notices on their homepages saying that spending money in North Korean restaurants was the same as giving financial support to strengthen the North Korean dictatorship and strengthen its military, and that North Korea uses funds from overseas to maintain its dictatorship and strengthen its military, including the development of nuclear weapons and missiles. The posted notices also said the workers at such restaurants get only about 10—30% of the total, which they receive in won, with all the foreign currency going to the regime. If you use North Korean restaurants, it warned, you make it so that North Korean citizens must continue to moan in pain.

The notices were pulled down after the Kyunghyang started looking into them. An official from the Foreign Ministry told the paper that they were sent out to keep South Korean travelers from potential harm, but given the content of said notices, the Kyunghyang ain’t buying it. It called the notices “very provocative.”

The Kyunghyang also pointed to comments made by Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan, who on June 15 said in comments directed towards Americans that he was sure the Korea—US alliance was a mutual and lasting one based on shared values rather than one based on cold calculations of national interest. He also said the Korea—US alliance would involve even more interest, support and difficult decisions, but we would pay this as the natural cost accompanying the development of the alliance.

The Kyungyang said these statements, as they make the alliance itself the goal rather than making it a tool to promote the national interest, would make uncomfortable China and North Korea, whose values differ from those of South Korea and the United States, and bring to mind Cold War rhetoric.

Marmot’s Note: Well, when you’re faced with a never ending assault on your “pro-North Korean” elements, you’ve got to fight back somehow.

Still, I’m not sure if attacking a guy for stating the obvious—that the alliance with the United States is based on more than just cold interest calculations—is the way to go. Not when you’ve got late President Roh saying this in 2005:

At this meeting, we were able to reaffirm that the Korea-U.S. alliance, based on the common values of democracy and market economy, is strong and that it is developing into a comprehensive, dynamic and mutually beneficial alliance.

To be fair, I’m sure those elements within the progressives who, one would imagine, dream of turning Korea into some sort of East Asian Venezuela probably needed smelling salts after hearing Roh, too. Especially considering he said it standing next to President Bush.

Why doesn’t Korea defend itself: Doug Bandow (who else?)

In Forbes, Doug Bandow asks—sit down for this, and grab some pills if you need them—why South Korea does defend itself. Read the thing in your entirety—here’s just a sample:

Alliance advocates occasionally defend the alliance in terms of China. Washington Times editorial page editor Brett M Decker claimed that “The rapid militarization of the People’s Republic of China makes the decades-old alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States just as important as ever.” But the ROK is unlikely to act as a cheerful member of a new containment ring around the PRC. Seoul might like to be defended in the unlikely event that Beijing moved to swallow the peninsula. However, no South Korean government is likely to make itself a permanent enemy of the PRC by backing Washington in a conflict elsewhere, say over Taiwan.

Indeed, the Roh Moo-hyun government insisted that American forces based in the ROK could not be used elsewhere in the region without its consent. The Lee government has a better relationship with Washington and adopted an ambiguous compromise which might allow American forces in the South to deploy, though not operate, from their bases. But maybe not. The U.S. can count on nothing in a crisis.

Beyond China it is hard to imagine how the alliance could act like the “lynchpin of not only security for the Republic of Korea and the United States but also for the Pacific as a whole.” More sensible would be to leave the Japanese and South Koreans to overcome old antagonisms and create a relationship that could act as a security foundation for what is, after all, their region.

(HT to reader)

FTA with Korea “a joke,” Seoul doesn’t pay for protection: The Donald

Republican presidential frontrunner and everybody’s favorite Birther, Donald Trump doesn’t think much of the KORUS FTA… or the ROK-US alliance:

Under a President Trump, China would be forced to end currency manipulation or face a 25 percent tariff on all exports to the United States. OPEC oil-producing nations would have to drop the price of a barrel or oil to $40-50 or face America’s wrath. And Arab nations and South Korea would pay for benefiting from America’s military might.

He singled out the recent trade pact with South Korea, signed after a military showdown with communist-ruled North Korea, saying it was a “joke” with insufficient benefits for the United States.

“We go over there, we protect them, we protect them with our ships … Did anyone pay us for this? No! So, what is happening is mind-boggling.”

That South Korea doesn’t pay for its defense has been a theme of The Donald, even though the accusation is not entirely true.

Anyway, NRO’s John Derbyshire liked what The Donald had to say:

Hold up there a minute, Donald. You mean to say you’d conduct U.S. foreign policy in our own national interest? Not in the interests of foreigners? Now that’s radical!

If the Donald can have thoughts as radical as that, maybe he could even have a thought as radical as this: Since South Korea has a vigorous modern economy and a huge, well-trained, and well-equipped modern military, while North Korea has no economy and a military of half-starved peasants manning patched-up Soviet-era equipment, maybe the South Koreans should take care of their own national defense, and we should withdraw the thirty thousand troops we have stationed there.

Once you start to have subversive thoughts like that, others come thick and fast. If we don’t need those thirty thousand troops in South Korea, then, hey, maybe we don’t need the 36,000 we’ve got stationed in Japan, either. It may even be — you might want to sit down for this one, it’s way out radical — it may even be we don’t need to keep 52,000 troops stationed in Germany, or the ten thousand in Italy, or the nine thousand in Britain. It’s real nice for those countries to have us protecting them, but how is it good for us?

US troops to be under S. Korean command? Are you serious?

UPDATE: From VOA Steve Herman’s Twitter:

S. Korean JCS & USFK totally knocking down Chosun Ilbo single source story on US forces to be under #ROK command in emergency.

Curious how the Chosun responds. Or if it responds. Here’s the Korean version of the Chosun piece, BTW.

ORIGINAL POST: The Chosun Ilbo is reporting that US troops might be put under South Korean command in the case of North Korean provocations against the South:

Seoul and Washington have agreed that the chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff will command support troops from the U.S. in case of a provocation from North Korea, a government source said Thursday.

“The South Korean and U.S. militaries have recently agreed in principle that the chairman of the Korean JCS will command U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force personnel and equipment that support the South Korean military in case of various provocations from the North,” the source said. The two countries are still hammering out the details.

Quoting a military source, the Chosun said “the South Korean JCS has persistently called for the option to mobilize USFK support” since last November’s shelling of Yeonpyeong-do.

Just who will be subject to South Korean mobilization, though, is still be decided:

Which U.S. troops and how many will be under the South Korean JCS chairman’s command has yet to be decided. Under consideration are reconnaissance aircraft such as U-2s and E-8 Joint-Stars, artillery from the Second U.S. Infantry Division like Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and M-109 self-propelled guns, Apache attack helicopters and medevac choppers, and some U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel. The aim is to supply capacity the South Korean military lacks.

Supply capacity the South Korean military lacks, eh? I — and the South Korean officer corps, apparently — can think of some trouble spots.

I don’t know who on the American side thought this was a good idea, but the prospect of South Korea mobilizing US troops during a North Korean provocation is truly blood-curdling. Leaving aside for the moment that the last couple of provocations have not proven to be banner moments for the military leadership to which we’re going to entrust our men and women in uniform, do we really want the decision to involve US troops in combat operations against North Korea to be left to the chairman of the South Korean JCS? Not that I have anything bad to say about the man — I’m sure he’s a man of honor — but if he’s got command, no matter how limited, of American military might, will he be able to resist using it during the next Yeonpyeong-do or Cheonan?

Just as a historical note, US troops were put under command of Gen. Paik Sun-yup, the commander of the ROK 1st Division, during the Battle of the Bowling Alley (a.k.a. the Battle of Dabu-dong) during the defense of the Nakdong Perimeter in the Korean War.

Donald Rumsfeld on Roh Moo-hyun and ROK—US Alliance

Donald Rumsfeld has apparently digitized many of the documents he has collected over his decades of service and is now putting together an online library.

Which is pretty cool, I should add.

Anyway, one of the memos he has uploaded is a 2002 memo on then-South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun’s calls for a review of the Korea—US relationship (.pdf) and the proper US response. You know, say what you will about Rummy, but as far as South Korea was concerned, he was dead on:

As you know, the new President-elect [Roh Moo-hyun] has stated that he wants to review the relationship. Rather than pushing back, I think we ought to accept that as a good idea. If we had recommended it, we could be accused of destabilizing the peninsula, but he recommended it.

I think it is an opportunity. We should agree with him, immediately put in place a process to do it and then drive the process so that we don’t do anything that destabilizes the peninsula. We would coordinate it carefully with our overall policy with respect to the peninsula, but we would get the job done.

He continues.

We have been there since 1950. It is time to rearrange the relationship and put the burden on the South Koreans. We could use the country as a lily pad to reinforce in the event of a conflict initiated by North Korea, but also have our forces there stop being so Korea-centric and instead be regionally oriented. Specifically, I am thinking about having a sea capability and an air capability that could be deployed into the region as well as to assist South Korea in the event of a problem and to certainly continue to have a strong deterrent.
[…]
We do need to rearrange our footprint there. We are irritating the South Korean people. What we need to do is have a smaller footprint, fewer people, and have them arranged not so much in populated areas.

Kudos to the Dong-A Ilbo for finding this.

Let Koreans Take Care of Korea: Bandow

What’s Doug Bandow’s take on the Cheonan sinking? Like you needed to ask:

A military reprisal then could have triggered a full-scale war. Responding in kind this time also could spark a dangerous escalatory spiral with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

However, Seoul has spent the last decade attempting to pacify the DPRK, providing aid, allowing investment, and hosting summits. To do nothing would seem to be abject appeasement, undermining ROK credibility and encouraging the North to act even more recklessly in the future. If the word “firm” has any meaning, the South Korean government would have to do more than protest.

Still, the decision, though difficult, shouldn’t concern the U.S. The South has gone from an authoritarian economic wreck to a democratic economic powerhouse. With a vastly bigger and more sophisticated economy, larger population, and greater access to international markets and support than the North, Seoul long has been able to defend itself. Pyongyang retains a numerical military edge, but its weapons are old, troops are undertrained, and industrial base is shrinking.

Thus, the South should be able to decide on the action that best advances its security. However, Seoul long chose to emphasize economic development over military preparedness. As a result, the ROK remains dependent on America.

It gets better:

Some 27,000 U.S. personnel are stationed in the South. The U.S. retains formal command of all forces, American and South Korean, during a war. Seoul expects substantial U.S. air and naval support and ground reinforcement in the event of war.

Which means that ROK retaliation against the DPRK would draw the U.S. into any conflict. So Washington cannot help but pressure South Korean decision-makers to act in accord with American as well as ROK interests. In fact, that’s what happened in 1983, when the U.S. insisted that Seoul not retaliate militarily after the bombing attack on President Chun.

The current situation also means that the destiny of America is essentially controlled by the North’s Kim Jong-il. Ordering an attack on a South Korean ship could end up forcing Washington to go to war. Although the bilateral U.S.-South Korean defense treaty does not make American intervention automatic, it is unimaginable that an American administration would stand aside in a conflict.

This is a ludicrous position for both the U.S. and South Korea, six decades after Washington saved a far weaker ROK from a North Korean invasion in the midst of the Cold War. Neither country is well-served by Seoul’s continuing defense dependency on America.

Read the rest on your own.

(HT to the Western Confucian)

US Troops Might Come Late: Bob Gates

So much for OPLAN 5029:

Additional U.S. ground forces may not be able to arrive in South Korea in time in case of an emergency situation in North Korea due to America’s heavy commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.

“We could not get the Army units required for South Korea into South Korea on the time line required by the plan,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. “That’s not to say they wouldn’t get there. It’s just that they wouldn’t get there as quickly because of the commitments that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so certainly initially we would be especially dependent on the Navy and the Air Force.”

Fear not, though — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said we’d be able to send extra troops to Korea after we draw down our presence in Iraq in 2011.

Wonder if anyone at the hearing asked whether we, like, actually need to send extra ground forces to Korea in the event of a provocation…

Just Your Regular ‘Bring ‘Em Home Now’ Reminder

When he isn’t Jew-baiting, Pat Buchanan can be so on-target:

All of which raises a question. If Tokyo does not want Marines on Okinawa, why stay? And if Japanese regard Marines as a public nuisance, rather than a protective force, why not remove the irritant and bring them home?

Indeed, why are we still defending Japan? She is no longer the ruined nation of 1945, but the second-largest economy on earth and among the most technologically advanced.

The Sino-Soviet bloc against which we defended her in the Cold War dissolved decades ago. The Soviet Union no longer exists. China is today a major trading partner of Japan. Russia and India have long borders with China, but neither needs U.S. troops to defend them.

Should a clash come between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, why should that involve us?

Comes the retort: American troops are in Japan to defend South Korea and Taiwan. But South Korea has a population twice that of the North, an economy 40 times as large, access to the most advanced weapons in the U.S. arsenal and a U.S. commitment to come to her defense by air and sea in any second Korean War.

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