[OUTLOOK]Visualizing a future alliance

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[OUTLOOK]Visualizing a future alliance

Why does our country make such fusses these days? The news of the withdrawal of the U.S. forces stationed in Korea for half a century stirred up controversy about the future of our security. When the decision to send troops from the U.S. 2d Infantry Division to Iraq was revealed overnight, we were surprised because we have complacently limited our thoughts only to the future changes of the bilateral alliance. Now we should seriously think about in which direction to lead the alliance. Then this will be an opportunity, not a crisis.
The relocation is considered an extension of the reorganization of U.S. forces across the world. Its direction, and reasons, had already been reported in the National Security Strategy announced in Washington two years ago, and the Global Defense Posture review last year. The problem lies in how we understood their contents and how faithfully we prepared, considering the situation. The future goal of the U.S. forces is to establish a posture that can respond to diverse and unpredictable security threats more promptly and effectively.
If the Korean army walks around while allied forces fly, joint operations will be in trouble. When we specify urgent needs for improvements in the command system, military equipment and long-term weapon systems, and start preparing, the argument that reduction in the number of troops will be offset by improvements in their quality will be convincing. Skilled negotiations should follow to get the United States to earnestly cooperate with us, in exchanging military intelligence and introducing necessary technology and equipment. If new U.S. bases are to be completed in Osan and Pyeongtaek by 2006, when American forces on the front will be realigned, there is no time to drag out negotiations with residents.
If Korea seeks these changes to participate in regional security in Northeast Asia, it should clarify why and to what extent it will do so, to prevent confusion. As long as our divided situation continues, military preparations against North Korea will be our priority. It is desirable to take the attitude that we will be responsible for security issues in the region, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But given our military capability, it would be unreasonable to promise to participate unconditionally in solving problems in Taiwan, or wherever else in East Asia. This would contradict our goal of forming partnerships with Japan, China and Russia.
Once the draft for a readjusted alliance is drawn up, we should materialize action plans and institutionalize a bilateral consultation system. The current hierarchical Korea-U.S alliance should develop to become an organic relationship like the U.S.-Japan alliance: separate and parallel, but equipped with systems for close consultation. If it is difficult to revise the defense treaty immediately, one method would be to set Korea-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, as America and Japan did seven years ago. These guidelines should be very specific and should fully reflect the changing security environment and our needs.
This conception of a future Korea-U.S. alliance is based solely on strategic judgement. An advan-ced model of the alliance cannot be properly designed without the premise of a firm belief that we can trust and cooperate with the United States. Threats to this bilateral trust have been around us for a few years. The North Korean nuclear issue is both our problem and the world’s. We should perceive that the Iraq situation is not only America’s problem, but a common task of the global village, which should be solved by common effort. Only then can Korea-U.S. relations be restored. Let’s never forget that as long as trust between Korea and the United States is solid, China and Japan will treat Korea well.

* The writer is a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Tae-hyo
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