[EDITORIALS]We can’t do it aloneGeneral Leon LaPorte, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, speaking at a seminar organized by the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, said, “The U.S.-South Korea military alliance and the rights of command will be under review.” We worry about a situation in which such vital issues involving the U.S.-Korea mutual defense treaty are being raised one-sidedly by the United States. If the military and political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula were normal, we would welcome the transfer of military commanding rights from the American side. But under the currently tense situation created by North Korea’s nuclear threats, it is rather embarrassing and even scary to hear such a suggestion. While the breakthrough in the nuclear stalemate with North Korea has been hard to achieve, we see a big gap in understanding between Washington and Seoul. That a U.S. State Department official said, “It is apparent that there exists differences between the United States and South Korea” is a clear reminder of the chasm between the nations.
A reduction, shift and realignment of U.S. Forces Korea and a review of the rights of command have to do with our defense capabilities, additional financial burdens and operational maneuverabilities of the Korean armed forces. In fact, plans for reduction and realignment of American forces have been under review on many occasions. The transfer of the rights of the operational command of U.S.-South Korea combined forces has long been a pending issue between the two countries. However, the issues on which our national security depends should be promoted in line with our national capabilities. If the United States tries to push ahead with such issues one-sidedly, while our army is unprepared to take over, it will be a problem.
A few days ago, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun said, “In the event of a war, the president of the Republic of Korea has no rights to an operational command of the Korean military.” The new government seems to give priority to national pride, criticizing the U.S.-South Korea military alliance instead of clarifying a threat. If we are not ready to defend ourselves, we should not create further trouble by making unnecessary remarks. National security is not guaranteed by national pride.