[FORUM]The shifting nature of alliancesThree thousand six hundred U.S. troops stationed in Korea are to be sent to Iraq. The situation is understandable, since the United States is suffering from the lack of ground troops in Iraq, and urgently needs to make up for them. It needs soldiers equipped with excellent mobility and combat skills. For that reason, it says, it has decided to deploy some troops from the 2d Infantry Division.
The dispatch of the U.S. troops to Iraq means the reduction of U.S. forces based in Korea. It is no wonder, considering the way the world works. Relations between Korea and the United States have long soured over the North Korean nuclear issue. In Korea, anti-American movies and television programs have been popular for a long time. In America, an anti-Korean atmosphere has now settled in. The situation is such that the Korea-U.S. alliance cannot help but become weaker.
A reduction in U.S. troops in Korea will produce a great change in the situation in Northeast Asia. The change will be either good or bad for the concerned parties. North Korea welcomes the U.S. troop reduction, but it rebels against the new U.S. policy of sending its troops elsewhere.
Japan can enjoy the change without any burden. The United States intends to make Japan its strategic hub in Northeast Asia. For the past 50 years, the United States has set out a strategy of a triangular alliance that connects Korea and Japan in this area. Now that the triangular alliance has become fragile, the United States wants to place more importance on the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Japanese leaders remember the historic value of alliances. Japan emerged as a strong country a century ago when it entered into an alliance with Great Britain. The alliance was Japan’s diplomatic victory, and it proved its worth in the Russo-Japanese War. Behind the collapse of the Russian Baltic fleet was the Anglo-Japanese alliance. Ninety-nine years ago Thursday was a monumental day in the history of naval battles.
On May 27, 1905, the combined fleets led by Japanese Admiral Heihachiro Togo routed the Russian fleet which had entered the Korea Strait after eight months of navigation. While it sailed across half the globe, the Baltic fleet was held in strict check by Great Britain. The fleet had difficulty in finding a port in which to rest or refuel. The Russian fleet was totally defeated by the waiting Japanese Navy.
At that time, Great Britain had an empire “on which the sun never set.” It was the world’s superpower. Nevertheless, it sought an alliance. In those times, Japan advocated self-reliance, but it nevertheless sought the best alliance. Self-reliance and alliances are not mutually exclusive. Alliances are made to consolidate self-reliance. In the Korean dictionary, alliance and self-reliance mean the opposite, but in the dictionary of history they are mutually complementary.
Plenty of examples in world history show that alliances and self-reliance are not dichotomous. This is a historical fact that the self-proclaimed self-reliance forces in Korea now can hardly understand. This cannot be understood through a historically ignorant and closed way of thinking.
Even a century later, Japan is making every effort to attain maximum effectiveness from an alliance. Under the U.S.-Japan alliance, Japan is trying to reinforce its military power and expand its economy. Capitalizing on the confusion on the Korean Peninsula arising from the North Korean nuclear problem, Japan has reappeared as a military power. Its background was the support of the United States.
The long-term plan of the United States is to besiege China. If the Korea-U.S. alliance does not work well, the United States is ready to put an encircling net on China, centering on Japan. Therefore, the Global Defense Posture review will take the Korea-U.S. alliance as an auxiliary of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Japan is consolidating its alliance with the United States in order to find a way out of the recession of the past 10 years. It is also doing so to save the money and time required for national security.
The strategic environment in Northeast Asia is rapidly changing. In Korea, anti-Japanese sentiments are no less strong than anti-American sentiments. Is the alternative to anti-America and anti-Japan to befriend China? Nonsense.
The firm policy of the Chinese leadership is to avoid friction with the superpower, the United States, until it builds up its national strength. We fall short of the diplomatic and military capability to cope with the changing order in Northeast Asia, and economic power as well.
If we neglect historical wisdom and experience, we will have to pay a bitter price.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of political news of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Bo-gyoon