A rush to insecurityAmid deepening uncertainties over denuclearization in North Korea, a call to withdraw U.S. forces from South Korea is gaining momentum in Washington. John Hamre, CEO of CSIS and a former U.S. deputy secretary of defense, said that mainstream politicians in the United States are increasingly supporting a pullout, not to mention U.S. President Donald Trump, who argued for the withdrawal as a presidential candidate. Those who support the pullout regard South Korea as an advanced country capable of protecting itself. Therefore, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) must leave after denuclearization, they contend.
No one can deny that we should protect ourselves on our own. The USFK must obviously leave at some point in the future. But there is a crucial point: it should pull out after the North Korean nuclear threats are completely removed.
The North Korean nuclear Gordian knot has not been solved for over 20 years. The number of North Korean nuclear weapons is increasing even now. We are deeply concerned about the possibility of the Trump administration and the Moon Jae-in administration joining hands to do something that only deepens insecurity on the Korean Peninsula. In Tuesday’s summit in New York between the two leaders, both reportedly agreed to “transform” their North Korea policies. What a transformation means is not clear. But the two leaders are likely to deviate from their principle of “easing sanctions after denuclearization.”
North Korea has demanded the United States ensure its regime’s security. It also wants the removal of USFK, one of the threats to its security. But if Washington and Seoul concur with Pyongyang’s logic, it could lead to a pullout of USFK even when the North Korean nuclear threat remains. That’s a worst-case scenario.
Moon presented a proposal to create an international peace zone in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in his address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. He wants to prevent a military clash on the tense border by removing more than 1 million land mines and encouraging UN agencies to relocate there.
Moon’s proposal is far-fetched. Demining activities in the DMZ and establishing a UN agency there can be done over time. What’s urgent is the removal of North Korea’s nuclear threats. Development of the DMZ can violate the UN sanctions and requires close consultations with the United Nations Command. It is best to stick to the existing policy to denuclearize North Korea through sanctions.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 26, Page 34