[EDITORIALS]Enhance trust with U.S. forcesAt the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy, President Roh Moo-hyun said, “There are voiced concerns regarding the ‘strategic flexibility’ of United States Forces in Korea and their expanded roles. But I clearly say that USFK will not be involved in disputes in Northeast Asia without Korea’s agreement.”
Such a remark by Mr. Roh may well draw both domestic and international attention. Amid the current situation in which it became inevitable for us to acknowledge USFK as a regional force in Northeast Asia, the supreme commander of the Korean military declared the country’s principles on the issue.
The operation of USFK is based on the two countries’ defense alliance. Its purpose is to secure safety on the Korean Peninsula.
We believe such a declaration of Mr. Roh is not a big deal. Mr. Roh’s remark came from the perception that Korea needs the war deterrent power of USFK while it does not want to see USFK become embroiled in conflicts among superpowers in Northeast Asia, which is not acceptable. But the concept of strategic flexibility of USFK is pursued by the redeployment of U.S forces scattered around the world and the strategy to turn them into mobile forces. We are curious why Mr. Roh mentioned the issue publicly at this particular moment.
A top National Security Council official said, “If the core of Mr. Roh’s remark lies in acknowledging strategic flexibility while attaching a condition to possible interference in Northeast Asian conflicts, there is no problem.” We, however, believe that there are many things to be discussed between Seoul and Washington before Mr. Roh made such a declaration. The foremost issue is how to stop USFK if it attempts to interfere with a conflict in Northeast Asia against Korea’s will. Seoul and Washington so far have not discussed the issue.
They have not agreed on whether to revise the two countries’ defense alliance or adopt a protocol yet. The issue, which is something that needs to be agreed upon, is closely related with how and in which direction the alliance can advance further.
We believe it is not desirable if it appears that there are some frictions between the two countries over the issue.
We thus ask Mr. Roh to study the issue in earnest and enhance mutual trusts between the two countries rather than just mentioning it openly.