[FORUM]Alliance needs reassessmentThe fact that the Korea-U.S. alliance must be maintained and developed for the mutual benefit of both nations is undisputed, despite varying predictions on the direction of the relationship.
Freedom, democracy, peace and prosperity must be promoted and protected by the alliance.
At the same time, our commitment to the alliance and democratic ideas should not be seen as a threat by neighboring states or as fuel for conflict.
The debate over the changing role of U.S. forces in Korea is linked to the future of the Korea-U.S. alliance. The U.S. military’s movement toward a “regional presence” rather than a sole deterrent role in South Korea is a front for concern and debate.
With advancing military technology and the repositioning of U.S. forces worldwide, it is expected that the United States is aiming for greater strategic flexibility than ever before. But what “strategic flexibility” means and how U.S. forces may act has not exactly been made clear. The results of this issue will depend largely on the future strategic role of the United States in Northeast Asia, South Korea’s strategy to maintain peace with North Korea and cooperation with neighboring Asian countries.
Alliances aren’t entirely rational, equal or perfect. The benefits gained from such partnerships are also hard to measure in financial terms. Even with Korea as the third-largest coalition partner in Iraq, rumors abound that the Korea-U.S. alliance has descended into crisis. Why?
Perhaps the reason is our alliance with the United States has never been mutually beneficial. For a long time, many people ― both in Korea and the United States ― have assumed that the current alliance was mutually benefiting both members. Because of a bond forged during the dark days of the Korean War, many have assumed that the United States’s interests in the region are the same as Korea’s and vice versa.
However, truth be told, those interests are actually quite divergent.
Korea’s main benefit from the alliance is of course that it is in theory shielded from a North Korean attack because of guaranteed United States military involvement, known as the “trip wire” effect. The United States benefits by maintaining a balance of power in the region, especially with regards to the security of Japan.
In the past, such differing strategic interests were insignificant in light of Cold War concerns. However, the end of the Cold War has brought about a swelling of regional power from China that threatens to reshape the nature of such alliances. Compounded with the North Korean issue, the changes call for a major reassessment of common assumptions and beliefs in regards to our current alliance.
Accordingly, in order for the Korea-U.S. alliance to maintain its relevancy, our country must enhance the reciprocity of the alliance and the strategic value of the peninsula. One of the ways this can be done is by actively participating in regional alliances throughout Northeast Asia, while promoting a spirit of cooperation and reconciliation between the North and South.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Seok-hwan