[EDITORIALS]The USFK’s new roleLieutenant General Charles C. Campbell, chief of staff of the Combined Forces Command, told reporters yesterday that the operational scope of the United States Forces Korea could be expanded to Northeast Asia. This makes official the rumors that the role of U.S. troops in Korea would not be limited to defending against a North Korean attack on the Korean Peninsula but would also include balancing the situation in Northeast Asia.
This has a contrary meaning for South Korea because while it is focused on securing the ability to stop North Korea, the U.S. government now wants to use USFK troops for a wider variety of missions. Even in the past, the United States has considered its presence in Korea in relation to its worldwide strategic plans, and the recent change is meant to shift the role of U.S. troops in Korea in accordance with changes in its worldwide strategy. All General Campbell’s comments did were to turn expectations into reality faster than expected.
As a result, fundamental changes in our defense situation are inevitable. With U.S. forces now assuming the role of enforcing peace in Northeast Asia, appropriate changes need to be reflected in the Mutual Defense Treaty. Many new issues will need to be resolved, including changes in relations with neighboring countries, and the influential role USFK will now play in Asia. It is questionable whether our government has reviewed these issues.
It also is not acceptable that a U.S. army official disclosed such an important change while the Korean government stood by in silence. If our government failed to learn about the changes in advance, it is a warning signal in the relations between the two countries, and if it did know, the government failed to fulfill its responsibility. The government must tell the people whether it knew about the policy changes in advance and what its position is.
From a wider viewpoint, the USFK’s new role of balancing the situation in Northeast Asia is required. The troops will remain important even after unification. The government should prepare a new plan for the alliance between the two countries, including the desirable role of the USFK, and work to achieve a national consensus.