[EDITORIALS]Seek mutual concessionsKorea and the United States have agreed on a “strategic flexibility” that would allow U.S. forces stationed in Korea to be deployed elsewhere when necessary. The United States, however, has accepted Korea’s position that it will not intervene in any conflict in the Northeast Asian region against Korea’s interest. The agreement is a compromise between the two countries. Seoul risked a further reduction of U.S. troops in Korea if it refused the “strategic flexibility” concept altogether. Considering the benefits of its alliance with Korea, the United States could not ignore the concerns Seoul had with U.S. troops in the Korean Peninsula being deployed to other parts of Northeast Asia.
It is a relief to know that one of the core issues causing tension between the two allies has now been resolved. Now, the role of the U.S. troops in Korea will shift from deterrence against North Korea to patrolling the entire world. This signifies a fundamental change in our security environment. We could now face formidable challenges to our security.
First and foremost, there is the tension with China and North Korea. Of course, the odds of U.S. troops in Korea being deployed to other parts of Northeast Asia are low even with the newly agreed “strategic flexibility.” However, the possibility of conflict between countries always exists on the international stage. One cannot foresee where the mounting tension between China and Japan will lead. North Korea is so sensitive to any moves by the U.S. military in Korea that it always declares a semi-state of war at the mere hint of any Korea-U.S. joint training exercises. It will surely not take this “strategic flexibility” agreement lightly. We must redouble our diplomatic efforts to build mutual trust with these countries and to prevent future conflict. We must also prepare for the absence of deterrence against North Korea in the case of U.S. troops in Korea being deployed elsewhere.
Next, there is the task of coordinating the concept of “strategic flexibility” with the Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. This treaty provides that both parties will act in collaboration when one of the parties is attacked.
Korea and the United States have yet to agree on the grounds for deploying U.S. troops in Korea to other parts of the world for a U.S. military strategy that includes pre-emptive strikes. There also remain the issues of transferring wartime operation control and the allotment of defense costs. Both countries should strive for mutual concessions in order to make sure that these sensitive issues do not lead to further tension.