[OUTLOOK]Renewing ties with the U.S.Do we want our alliance with the United States to continue? If so, we must renew our long-term vision for a bilateral alliance that can continue after reunification of the two Koreas. The two countries must build a comprehensive alliance based on a security cooperation declaration and implement the realignment of troops through mutual agreement.
Before the start of negotiations on the partial withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea yesterday, various voices expressed worries over the present state of the Korea-U.S. alliance. The U.S. government has already announced that it will withdraw one of the brigades in Korea, consisting of some 3,600 troops, to be deployed in Iraq. It has also suggested the withdrawal of 12,000 troops in the near future.
We must be concerned about how this change in U.S. strategy will affect deterrence on the peninsula. We must negotiate to narrow the gap between the global and regional strategy that the United States is considering and the deterrence strategy against North Korea that we put priority on. If the United States one-sidedly informs us of its decision before any negotiations, the solidarity of the alliance will be weakened.
In order to prevent this from happening, the presidents of the two countries need to adopt a new declaration of why we need a Korea-U.S. alliance and why we want it to continue.
Although part of the U.S. forces in Korea may withdraw, the United States has vowed that deterrence will be maintained through visible supplementations of naval and air forces and that it will cooperate in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian region. Should such a bilateral declaration be issued, it would provide an opportunity to restore the weakened faith in the alliance.
The Korean government must seek the consent of the National Assembly on this vision and show firm leadership in forming the national consensus to back it up. If the government fails in its economic policies, it always has the market to supplement it. However, if the government fails in its security policies, it is impossible to get any help from anywhere.
The government alone is responsible for the policy results. The international environment that is the object of foreign and security policies is something we can’t control. We must not fall into the dichotomy of thinking “anti-America” or “pro-America” but think prudently about what is actually in our national interest.
If we do not have a realistic alternative to the Korea-U.S. alliance in maintaining our security, prosperity and freedom, then we’d better put our efforts into solidifying this alliance while working to build our own national power at the same time. This would be the practical way to practice genuine autonomous self-defense.
Keeping a healthy Korea-U.S. alliance not only reduces our military costs but contributes to our economic development. Even China, which publicly criticized the United States’ “hegemonic ambitions,” puts topmost priority in improving relations with the United States for its economic development.
The Chinese leadership has a research team in the Politburo that studies the U.S. Congress, academia and media with the aim of improving China’s image in American society.
In redefining the Korea-U.S. alliance, it is imperative that we maintain the current mutual defense treaty. At present, there is little possibility that the United States and Korea will agree on a new treaty which the U.S. Senate will ratify.
Considering the political dynamics in Northeast Asia, with the prolongation of the North Korean nuclear situation and the power competition between Japan and China, the Korea-U.S. alliance is the biggest diplomatic asset we have.
We must give our utmost efforts to continue and renew this alliance for the future.
* The writer is a visiting professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Ahn Byung-joon