A perfect storm is comingJUNG HYO-SIK
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The east coast of the United States is in a state of emergency as category 5 hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas and is slowly approaching Florida. Some 20 strong hurricanes hit the United States over the past 100 years, and this is the fourth one since President Donald Trump was inaugurated. What meteorologists fear more is when hurricanes merge and become a “perfect storm.”
A warning that the Korea-U.S. alliance is heading toward a perfect storm was made. In a Voice of America talk between former White House advisor for East Asia and Pacific affairs Dennis Wilder and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies David Maxwell on Aug. 31, they raised concerns about whether the alliance — which began to crumble with the end of the Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) — can smoothly resolve pending issues, including defense cost-sharing. Wilder criticized whether President Moon Jae-in was devoted to the alliance as he scrapped Gsomia, which the United States had fought to earn for years, without an advance notice.
While the deal is between Korea and Japan, he meant that the United States made them an axis of East Asian security structure. U.S. foreign policy and defense heads openly said they were “disappointed,” which is unprecedented in the history of Korea-U.S. alliance, and the officials dealing with East Asian affairs in the White House National Security Council, the Department of States and the Department of Defense are angry because of this.
A bigger problem is what comes after Gsomia. After the VOA talk, I asked Maxwell what would be the perfect storm to break the Korea-U.S. alliance. He said that the conditions would be pressure from the Trump administration to change the decision to leave Gsomia, differences in North Korea policy, a defense cost-sharing deal in which the United States demands an increase to $5 billion, and ongoing Korea-Japan discord. He claimed that the issues that the two countries have been coordinating on — including the early return of 26 U.S. military bases demanded by the Blue House last week and the restitution of the wartime operational control — could be a problem.
If so, is there a way to prevent or prepare? He said it is urgent for President Moon Jae-in and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to prioritize national security and prosperity in preparation for North Korean threats and resolve issues between the two countries, including Gsomia, over domestic support. Considering the atmospheres in both countries, America’s wish seems impossible. For Korea, the next priority is to extinguish the fire on the Korea-U.S. alliance. Before the hurt feelings caused by Gsomia blow up problems, we need to talk. A two-plus-two foreign and defense ministerial meeting that hasn’t been held during the Trump administration era could be a good option.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 3, Page 28