&#91LETTERS TO THE EDITOR&#93Defense meeting in Seoul crucial for U.S. force presence

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&#91LETTERS TO THE EDITOR&#93Defense meeting in Seoul crucial for U.S. force presence

This week, U.S. and South Korean defense officials will meet in Seoul as a follow-up to the May 14 presidential meeting in Washington. These talks will serve as catalysts in reforming the American military presence in Korea.
The June 13, 2002, protests at the U.S. Embassy displayed South Korean dissatisfaction with the U.S. troop presence in its current form. The Pentagon said U.S. forces in Korea would be realigned or possibly removed.
Those plans may complement each other. By realigning the U.S. forces in South Korea, incidents involving the U.S. military and the Korean residents could be reduced while still maintaining a strong deterrence against North Korean aggression.
Presidents Roh and Bush agreed to consolidate U.S. forces around key hubs in their joint statement in May. This consolidation would reduce the American footprint in Korea. The consolidation could also serve strategic purposes vis-a-vis North Korea. The second Iraq War revolutionized warfare by removing an enemy regime with minimal loss to civilians through mobile, light units and precision-guided weapons. The American military in Korea still maintains a Cold War footing that is large and cumbersome. U.S. soldiers are exposed at the front and would be killed immediately should war occur. Instead, the United States should position its forces in a manner that is most advantageous in quickly and successfully defeating the North Korean military as it did Iraq’s. Just as the U.S. victory in Iraq motivated the Kim Jong-il regime to the negotiating table, realigning forces toward America’s new military doctrines would motivate the North to abandon its military option. The Kim Jong-il regime would be in danger of a regime change.
To the relief of diplomats, the White House summit ended successfully in the hope of improving the political and economic relationship between the two nations. This week’s follow-up should ease Korean concerns over the U.S. presence while improving the U.S. force structure.

by Michael Choi
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