[EDITORIALS]Re-examine our defense nowA high-ranking official said yesterday that the United States had contacted the Korean government last June about the reduction by 12,000 of its forces in Korea. There has been speculation about the size of the reduction, but now we have a clear picture. A reduction of 12,000 represents about a third of the 37,000 U.S. soldiers on the peninsula, and amounts to about half the infantry forces available. If the reduction is focused on the 2d Infantry Division, which has a strength of 13,000, it means a pullout of almost all troops of the division. Under such circumstances, with Korea having depended heavily on the United States for the peninsula’s security, improving the strategic power of our armed forces has become a priority of the utmost urgency.
It is said that a whole division of the Korean army would be needed to make up for the loss of 3,600 U.S. soldiers from the 2d Division. If 12,000 soldiers leave, it’s easy to see that a lot of money will have to be spent. The combat power of the 2d Division equals that of roughly three mechanized Korean divisions. According to the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, the total cost of obtaining the defensive capability to stand on our own amounts to 64 trillion won ($55 billion) until 2010.
As it is now clear that the force reduction will be on a grand scale, our government needs to do more than pay lip service. How it intends to come up with the money, and how it plans to cope with the negative economic and social effects that could follow such a large force reduction, are very important issues. The government needs a plan.
There are other problems, too. First, we have to readjust our combined command structure, currently led by the United States With this great reduction, the Korean army has to play the lead role now. The Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty that has become the basis for the U.S. presence here may need some changing, while the transfer of the command of Korean forces in wartime is another hot issue. The plan to relocate U.S. bases needs to be discussed from a totally new angle. Ultimately, the sizable reduction of the U.S. forces requires us to reassess our security posture. It’s a challenge we have never encountered before. It’s a time when a specific plan from the government is needed more than ever.