[EDITORIALS]Comments hurt Korea-U.S. tiesLieutenant General Charles Campbell, the chief of staff of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, has expressed discontent with Seoul’s decision to reduce its contribution to the cost of stationing U.S. troops in South Korea.
He said the jobs of 1,000 South Korean civilian workers for the U.S. military were at risk because of the cuts and mentioned the possibility of restricting the Korean military’s access to C4I, or command, control, communications, computers and intelligence. His comments could have a negative effect on the security of the Korean Peninsula and on Korea-U.S. relations. These comments are all the more reason for concern because many see them as a reflection of the recent bilateral strains.
Lieutenant General Campbell’s announcement reportedly was made without any prior consultation with our government. He left the press conference right after reading his announcement and didn’t answer questions. Such an attitude is unimaginable if the two countries are on friendly terms. The two governments had tentatively agreed that Seoul would reduce its contribution by about 60 billion won ($59 million). Therefore, Lieutenant General Campbell’s announcement was a case of a military leader revoking an agreement between two governments. In addition, the U.S. forces backed his announcement saying that it was the U.S. government’s official position. These circumstances tell us that Lieutenant General Campbell’s actions are about something more than funding. Some analysts see it as an expression of accumulated discontent towards the Korean government.
If we fail to gain access to C4I, it is a serious setback in our defense capability. This would be a serious security crisis. The government should find out the real position of the U.S. government and redouble efforts to restore the Korea-U.S. alliance. The United States should also keep in mind that such one-sided behavior by Lieutenant General Campbell will only aggravate anti-American sentiments among the Korean public and harm ties between the two countries.