[EDITORIALS]A bizarre, discordant situationIt has become known that negotiations with the United States regarding the U.S. troop reduction on the peninsula were quite dramatic. The United States had first planned for a reduction of 6,500 forces next year. Then, that number was reduced to 5,000 and at the very end it was agreed that 3,000 would leave the peninsula.
In order to reduce the number of troops to be pulled out from the peninsula by 3,500, working level officials tried every conceivable tack over the past four months. While key government officials, including the president, openly said that those who want to leave should do so, working-level officials tried hard to have as many soldiers stay as possible. The situation that unfolded was truly bizarre.
That such a fiasco would happen had been predicted. While Defense Ministry officials are well aware that the U.S. military presence here plays a key part in Korea’s security, key members of the government have been ranting about defense self-sufficiency and plans to achieve that goal within the next decade. At the time, a Blue House official said that since the reduction of U.S. forces is part of the overall U.S. military’s repositioning plan, begging the United States to stay is not possible. If that is true, why did the Defense Ministry try to limit the number of U.S. forces to be withdrawn as much as possible? If the Blue House took such a stance despite knowing there would be a security problem, then it deceived the people. If the officials did so without knowing the impact of their actions, they are not doing their job.
The government also argued that since key strategic elements remained in the country there would be no big strategic setback. But even that argument proved to be one just used to calm the public since the United States had planned for a pullout of combat units and other important units first.
Considering our security situation, the fact that the size of the forces to be reduced and the timing of the withdrawal has been delayed is good news. That a healthy spirit of alliance is also coming back due to our troop dispatch to Iraq is also a positive sign. It is symbolic that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited the Korean troops and encouraged Korean soldiers there. But there are factors that could have some negative impact on the Korea-U.S. alliance. Regarding security issues, there cannot be separate opinions between the Blue House and the Defense Ministry.