[EDITORIALS]No haste on troop changesThe realignment of the United States Forces Korea is beginning to take a more concrete shape. At the third round of the Future Alliance Policy Initiative talks, held in Honolulu from July 23, Seoul and Washington agreed that the U.S. forces will hand over the responsibility of guarding the Joint Security Area to the South Korean Army by the beginning of 2005 and return the Yongsan base by the end of 2006. The realignment is an irreversible reality. As the senior representative of the South Korean delegation has said, the South Korean Army’s sole control over the defense of the Demilitarized Zone is a significant and symbolic step toward self-reliance in national defense.
Many citizens are concerned that these crucial decisions are being made when North Korea’s nuclear ambition has elevated the security threat on the peninsula. While the rearrangement is part of the worldwide adjustment in U.S. strategic planning, it could be problematic if even Korean government officials and experts from both Korea and the United States feel that Washington is pushing the changes too fast.
The relocation of U.S. troops in Korea would exert tremendous effects on the peninsula from the moment it is discussed until its implementation. Therefore, we must make sure that the South Korean government’s opinions and concerns are sincerely reflected and make clear the logic and reality on which Washington’s decisions are based. We also must check whether the government is prepared to fill in the security gap as a deterrent to North Korea’s threats, and has provided a plan to meet enormous financial burden needed to enforce military force, before the Bush administration finalizes its plan.
Some citizens who demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country and raised anti-American voices must realize the stern reality of the shaky security stance and the tremendous financial burden stemming from the change in U.S. troop deployment. Behind its hurried steps to realign its forces in Korea, Washington must have considered the elevated anti-American sentiments in the South.