[EDITORIALS]Fill space left by U.S. troopsA high-ranking official in the U.S. defense department said the number of U.S. troops in South Korea will be reduced, although it won’t be by a large number. Washington decided to take that measure, he said, because the U.S. troops in Korea will have a supporting role after Korea regains wartime operational command. Korea’s senior military officials worried that if Korea had wartime control, the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command would be dismantled and the number of U.S. soldiers would decrease. These worries have become reality.
The U.S. official’s remarks might have been intended to calm worries about the entire withdrawal of U.S. ground forces. The intention can be read in such remarks as “this additional reduction is not part of a full-scale withdrawal, but is an adjustment for Korea’s takeover of wartime command,” and “U.S. troops will be reduced at a special pace and in a special way that does not cause insecurity to Korea’s national security.”
However, as an increasing number of Americans have ill feelings about the Roh Moo-hyun administration, it is hard to believe his remarks. There are two reasons for this. The first is the timing of the takeover. Former and incumbent commanders of the U.S. forces in Korea have repeatedly said that Korea’s military power is not sufficient to take over wartime control. However, this time, Washington proposed handing over wartime control in 2009, which is two years earlier than when the South Korean government thinks it will have enough military power to regain control. Washington seems to mean Seoul can take over wartime operational command, whether it has enough military power or not. This cannot happen if the two countries are allies in a real sense.
The second reason is support for the U.S. Navy and Air Force. During the first round of reductions and this time, the United States said it would enhance its Navy and Air Force more than its ground army to support Korea. But in reality, there are complaints the United States will withdraw part of its air force because they cannot have missile drills.
The Roh administration must know the Philippines made U.S. troops withdraw without enough preparation, severely damaging the country’s national security and economy. Thus, the government should not be fooled by a mirage of self-reliance and instead face reality. It should present a blueprint to show how U.S. troops can be reduced at a reasonable speed and how we can fill the space that troop reduction will leave behind.