[OUTLOOK]It’s time to re-think our defense

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[OUTLOOK]It’s time to re-think our defense

Early next month, the U.S. Department of Defense will publish the Quadrennial Defense Review, outlining the mission and direction of U.S. forces during the next 20 years. The contents of the review have been partially made public by the media. This is the third such report. The first was published in 1997.
The report is attracting growing attention because it reflects the lessons Washington has learned from the war against terrorism in the last four years. It will list the duty, role, scale, structure and alliances planned for U.S. forces.
It is only natural for Seoul, which is maintaining a joint-defense system and agreed last week to respect the strategic flexibility of U.S. forces deployed in Korea, to take a special interest in the defense report.
Rather than focusing on how many and what kinds of high-tech weapons the United States wants to have, we need to pay more attention to the reasons why Washington wants to possess such weapons and how that will affect its global actions. Especially, we need to take notice of how Washington perceives a crisis and how it responds.
The continental United States faces threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and such threats are expected to continue or increase.
Therefore, the mission of the U.S. armed forces emphasizes protecting the continental United States from unconventional threats. To do so, the U.S. forces aim to establish “tailored deterrence” and a prompt, flexible response to possible threats by expanding various military measures.
The military will apply the latest science and technology, including communications and information technologies, to improve speed, agility, mobility and precision.
In addition, the role of the troops has grown from simple combat tasks. Now, the military takes care of such things as humanitarian relief, public security, safety and reconstruction. The defense department also plans to educate next-generation fighters with the knowledge and understanding of foreign languages and cultures needed to carry out such tasks.
Furthermore, the defense review is expected to emphasize more contribution, participation and cooperation from allied and friendly nations.
If it goes according to plan, we can presume the status of the United States as the sole superpower in the world will become more solid, and the security structure of “a multipolarized world with one superpower” will be maintained and stabilized. Considering the reality of international politics, we are faced with a question, “What should our choice be?”
The most realistic and wise option would be to strengthen the alliance and review the strategic value of Korea, so we can minimize the burden that occurs from maintaining the alliance.
We also need our position reflected in U.S. policy as much as possible. In this context, the agreement on “strategic flexibility” has a very important meaning, because it was a chance to clear the concerns that there was a possible weakening of the alliance between Washington and Seoul.
As we pursue a comprehensive, dynamic and reciprocal alliance with the United States, we should be able to identify the security threats we are faced with today and will face in the future. We also need to establish a mutual understanding on the security threats of the 21st century that Washington emphasizes, close the difference in perceptions through consultations and adjust the scope and level of cooperation. Therefore, the ongoing ministerial strategic consultation meeting and the Security Policy Initiative are very meaningful. We need to establish and pursue a future vision of the Korea-U.S. alliance at this point.
Under the joint defense system with the United States, Seoul has to pay attention to the interoperability and cooperation structure.
Since the review defines the new military structure, scale and operation methods, we need to review and consult how much interoperability we can have between the troops of the 21st century and those of the 20th century.
The report stresses cooperation between the military and other government agencies. Seoul should consider establishing a government-level system with Washington that goes beyond the existing military-to-military cooperation.
Also, we have to learn lessons from the integrated defense system pursued by Washington and examine how we can apply them to the Korean circumstances and utilize them for the development of Korea’s defense.

* The writer is a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Choi Kang
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