[EDITORIALS]Our security is at riskThe United States reportedly has proposed to move the U.S. 2d Infantry Division garrison to an area south of the Han River this autumn. The U.S. proposal comes amid the embranglement of the North Korean nuclear issue, and the suggestion has disturbed our national security outlook. Seoul has already told Washington it objects to relocating U.S. troops here before the North Korean nuclear crisis is resolved. Now is the time to analyze why Washington has made the proposal despite Seoul’s objection.
There are two reasons for the U.S. proposal. First, the United States is reacting emotionally to the anti-Americanism here during the launch of the Roh Moo-hyun administration and to the political exploitation of that sentiment. The Roh government called itself the mediator between Washington and Pyeongyang to resolve the nuclear issue and attempted to redefine the U.S.-South Korea alliance. This irritated Washington. Second, the United States seems determined to protect its forces, stationed in areas within the range of North Korean missiles and long-range artillery. Washington reacted irritably when Seoul stressed the U.S. forces’ role of trip-wire on the peninsula as a war deterrent.
Fortunately, Seoul’s diplomatic efforts and Mr. Roh’s decision to dispatch troops to Iraq are slowly mending the rupture in the U.S.-South Korea alliance. The ruling Millennium Democratic Party leader said before the National Assembly that realignment of U.S. forces and revision of the pact governing U.S. troops here should be discussed after the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved. Late, but that position was still better than none.
Negotiations on the USFK will begin soon, and we must make clear what our stance is. Before Mr. Roh visits the United States in May, Seoul must draw up plans that focus on ways to prevent a recurrence of a security crisis on the peninsula. A nuclear-free peninsula should be based on the U.S.-South Korea alliance. As Mr. Roh said, a security crisis will exacerbate the economic crisis here by disturbing investors. Seoul must warn Washington that premature talks of relocating U.S. troops will erode the security of the Korean Peninsula.