On changing U.S. strategy

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On changing U.S. strategy

The United States has decided to keep the headquarters of its Eighth Army in Seoul, reversing plans to relocate it to Hawaii. Next June, it will also form a new Korea Command, which will control the U.S. forces stationed here. The move aims to minimize a gap in security on the peninsula when wartime operational control is transferred from the U.S. forces to South Korea in 2012. The U.S. military wants to reform its units stationed here in accordance with its global military strategy.

And the new U.S. forces base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, scheduled to be complete in 2015, could serve as an overseas operational hub, a role currently assumed by the U.S. forces in Japan. By giving strategic flexibility to the U.S. forces in South Korea, the Pyeongtaek base would become an advance base for the United States in Northeast Asia.

Given South Korea’s geopolitical location neighboring North Korea and other regional powers, the new U.S. plans would be beneficial to our security. But there are some issues to deal with as well. The government must prepare measures in response to the restructuring of the U.S. military here.

First, there is the fallout from the transfer of the wartime operational command. In emergencies, the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Commander would control the U.S. forces here, American reinforcements from overseas and also the South Korean troops. Up-to-date U.S. military intelligence from around the world and the country’s combat capabilities would be put to efficient use in that case.

But by shifting the wartime command, South Korean forces would operate separately from their U.S. partners. That runs the risk of compromising efficiency in the field. The ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement stipulates automatic U.S. intervention in case South Korea comes under attack, but that is only on a theoretical basis. The combined forces command is there to ensure such protection. In other words, it has real impact in minimizing the possibility of North Korean provocations. We need measures to prevent weakening of such effect. The best solution would be to delay the transfer until at least the peninsula finds peace and stability.

The forming of the new Korea Command would hinder our diplomatic activities in the future. For instance, the presence of a U.S. advance base here might affect our relations with China or Russia.

We can’t avoid this possibility as long as we need U.S. troops in the nation, but still, the government needs to exercise flexibility to keep any negative side effects to a minimum.

Finally, we must keep the latest move - with South Korea serving as the overseas base for the U.S. forces - from degenerating into an international controversy. Some may charge that South Korea will depend entirely on the U.S. armed forces.

We must remember that western European nations and Japan have accepted a similar role for the sake of national security. We must keep in mind that maintaining and strengthening our military alliance with the United States is the wisest option to satisfy our security needs.
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