[EDITORIALS]How to replace U.S. troops?The United States has recently notified the South Korean government of its plan to move about 4,000 troops of the U.S. 2d Infantry Division’s 14,000 troops stationed here in Korea to Iraq by June. This is the realization of rumors that have been circulating since March about a reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea. As the U.S. combat troops, that were in charge of protecting the entrance to our capital, transfer out of their current location, our security issue has turned into one under contingency. We face an emergency: our troops must reinforce or substitute those U.S. forces leaving Korea. The minimum costs of the equipment held by the division could be as much as $5 billion.
Moreover, the withdrawal of U.S. troops for Iraq could have a negative impact on our businesses at home and abroad, and could lead to a worsening of our already serious economic situation. The plunge in stock prices is not irrelevant to this.
The government must come up with specific plans to fill the security vacuum and assure the public of its capabilities to cope. That will mitigate uncertainty and insecurity.
The United States has said this was an inevitable measure, resulting from the worsening of the Iraqi situation. However, Washington’s advanced implementation of its strategy of “reduction of U.S forces in Korea” can also be seen as a result of accumulated discord between the two nations, which has became more apparent under the current administration. It is worth noting the positions of the two nations following this move. Both countries said that there were no prior consultations on this issue.
If this is true, it is deeply regrettable. The Roh administration ought to know very well the reason our alliance has become so frigid. It’s our loss. The issue is whether we have an alternative after we tell them, “Go if you want to go.” The reduction of U.S. forces must be at the speed and the number of troops that is bearable to us considering the situation with the North and the financial burden on us. Even if withdrawal takes place, we must maintain closer relations with the United States.
The government must show specific alternatives, rather than using rhetoric like “independent national defense in the next ten years,” or “cooperative independent defense.”