[VIEWPOINT]Loss of U.S. trust endangers security

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[VIEWPOINT]Loss of U.S. trust endangers security

The discord between South Korea and the United States over security issues is not showing any signs of dying down.
The disharmony that occurred recently between the two governments in connection with the annual South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting held in Washington, D.C., revealed a big gap in opinion between the two countries.
The discord resulting from the loss of mutual respect and trust from allies is worrisome.
The concerns about the timing of the transfer of wartime control from Washington and the concept of “extended deterrence” come in relation to the U.S. guarantee that it will provide a nuclear umbrella to South Korea. If this situation of discord continues, the defense authorities of the two nations may begin to distrust each other even more.
Take the transfer of wartime control, for example. The two countries agreed to transfer wartime control sometime between 2009 and 2012. However, it is expected that fierce friction and conflict will occur between the defense authorities of South Korea and the United States on the timing of the actual transfer in the course of negotiations.
General Burwell Baxter Bell, the commander of the Combined Forces Command, said at a press conference in which he gave a briefing on the topics discussed at this year’s Security Consultative Meeting, “The timing of the transfer of wartime control needs to be decided by the first half of next year.”
His remark reflects the U.S. position that the transfer of wartime control is more important than the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, which is absolutely in conflict with the position of the Defense Ministry of South Korea.
South Korea caused the problem when it demanded the early transfer of the wartime control regardless of the security situation.
However, that does not mean the United States can one-sidedly push its plan.
This problem should be solved through the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation between allies.
The United States should not try to make use of Korea’s request and shorten the timing of the wartime control transfer earlier than scheduled. Seoul also needs to talk more openly with Washington about the desirable preconditions for the transfer. South Korea especially needs to make it clear that it will try its best to pay the financial burden of the transfer.
The same goes for the idea of “extended deterrence” in regard to relations with the provision of a nuclear umbrella. We should not one-sidedly and unconditionally interpret the expression in a broad sense. We must read the intention of the United States that is implied in the concept and prepare ourselves. The concept of “extended deterrence” that the United States included for the first time in the joint statement of the Security Consultative Meeting is different from that of the Cold War era. The “extended deterrence” of the Cold War era was aimed at the nuclear threats from the Soviet Union and consisted of a “triad of nuclear striking power,” which included intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and fighter-bombers.
However, the Nuclear Posture Review of the Bush administration announced in 2002 added new ideas to this, such as the “missile defense system” and “conventional military capability.”
These were added to adapt to the new security situation, in which the threats from terrorism and nuclear proliferation have increased since the end of the Cold War.
Therefore, “extended deterrence” should be seen as the base concept of the Nuclear Posture Review. It gives a greater emphasis on “conventional military capability” and “missile defense systems” than “nuclear striking power.” The reason why the United States urged Japan and South Korea to actively take part in the missile defense system should also be understood in this context.
Therefore, instead of interpreting the meaning of “extended deterrence” in a broader sense and rejoicing over its inclusion, we have to keep in mind that it is our responsibility to secure a “missile defense system,” including the purchase of Patriot missiles that will work as deterrence against North Korea.
If South Korea fails to fulfill its responsibility, the nuclear umbrella and the guarantee of military support from the United States in emergencies will be weakened.
We must properly understand that the United States Forces in Korea of the future will be different in quality from those that have been stationed here on Korean soil until now.
Ultimately, the transfer of wartime command, the extended deterrence and the military support from the United States during emergencies should be based on mutual respect and trust in the spirit of cooperation as allies.
More specifically, the key is in reviving the trust between the defense authorities of the Republic of Korea and the United States of America.

*Security issues would normally be easy to arrange, but mutual distrust between Korea and the United States complicates the issue.



by Park Yong-ok
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