Sent: Sunday, February 20, 2005 10:43 PM
WITHDRAW FROM KOREA?
I am personally convinced that total withdrawal of all US forces in South Korea, probably by the
end of 2006, is inevitable -- ultimately being favored by both the leftist, and not especially pro-US, ROK government
and by the Pentagon which does not like all those troops being tied down in what is, in essence, a static defense mode. I
am also convinced that this will inevitably lead to our being involved in another conflict on the Korean Peninsula within
the next several years.
While history almost never exactly repeats itself,. it is still important to review how
we first got involved in the war in Korea, which began in June 1950. It is commonly believed that the North Korean (NK) invasion
was primarily encouraged by SecState Acheson's January 1950 remarks leaving South Korea outside our Pacific defense perimeter.
Actually, Douglas MacArthur had done exactly the same thing in March 1949 with no adverse results. What really encouraged
the North to attack was the total withdrawal of :US troops (except for a small MAAG mission) by June 1949. Moreover that fall,
Congress only very narrowly approved economic aide to the ROK. Acheson's remarks simply confirmed what the NK has already
concluded: the US would not come to the ROK's defense were it attacked by NK. I, and I am sure most Americans, would then
have come to the same conclusion. Most Americans didn't even know where Korea was. When we were growing up, it was called
Chosen and belonged to Japan.
After the withdrawal of all US forces, NK becomes the dominant military (and thus
political) power on the Korean Peninsula with its overwhelming conventional military superiority (not compensated for by all
the advanced weaponry we will leave the ROK armed forces when we leave or by US promises of future assistance in case of war.)
And this will be enormously reinforced by NK's putative possession of nukes. What most people have never realized is that
Communist countries (and some others) , in first instance, regard military power as essentially a psychological/political/diplomatic
instrument. I first became aware of this phenomenon, during the 1959 Geneva Foreign Ministers Conference on Berlin and Germany
(I was there), when we almost sold out West Berlin to the Soviets because we believed in the "missile gap." (When we discovered
,in late 1959, that this gap did not really exist, our position on Berlin hardened substantially, causing Khrushchev to blow
up the May 1960 Paris Summit (I was also there) using the U-2 shoot down as a pretext to avoid a summit which would not produce
the Berlin sell-out he expected..)
Once we leave the ROK, NK will establish formal diplomatic relations with
the ROK and establish a very large mission in Seoul (as did, for example, the Cubans did in Santiago de Chile under Allende)
to further infiltrate agents (already estimated at 10,000 in 2005) and generally increase its influence in the ROK and undermine
its defense, for example, by attacking the ROK military as dominated by "fascist reactionaries" who impede progress toward
reunification. Eventually NK could well instigate some internal ROK "crisis" that would prompt NK to intervene with "volunteers"
to "restore order." At that point, the US President would very likely conclude that if we allow this naked, albeit disguised,
aggression to stand, our position in East Asia is down the drain. So we intervene militarily to restore the status quo. In
this we will be greatly handicapped by our lack of littoral warfare capability especially in mine warfare and naval surface
fire support, essential to littoral operations, especially forcible entry from the sea which will probably be required to
get "boots on the ground."
This assessment is based on decades of experience in foreign/national security affairs,
but could be, I devoutly hope, wrong. Any Warlord Looper or anyone else is free to use the above piece in any way each chooses.
Looper Dick Halloran's op-ed piece in the Korean Hearld suggests that "Perhaps it is time for the United States....to disengage
itself completely from the Korean Peninsula."
Many readers remember that North Korean armed forces surged south across the 38th Parallel six months after
Secretary of State Dean Acheson, in a widely publicized speech at the National Press Club on 12 January
1950, diagrammed a U.S. defense perimeter that excluded Korea. Critics, however, should consider immense
changes in strategic context during the last five decades before they cite that precedent.
February 18, 2005
Time For U.S. To Disengage Itself From Korea
By Richard Halloran
Ever since North Korea declared it had started manufacturing nuclear arms and asserted those weapons were no longer negotiable,
leaders in Washington, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Moscow, and the United Nations have been scurrying to persuade, cajole, or force
the North Koreans to return to the negotiating table.
Maybe that's the wrong way to confront this issue. More than two years of negotiation have proven futile. An alternative,
military force, is an option that nobody in any capital wants because it would cause unspeakable death and destruction. Perhaps
it is time for the United States to adopt a third option, which would be to disengage itself completely from the Korean Peninsula.
Complete U.S. disengagement would mean:
*Walking away from the six-party talks in Beijing, cutting off all communication with Pyongyang, strengthening economic
sanctions, and warning North Korea that any military threat to the United States, to U.S. forces in Asia, and to U.S. allies
would be met with terrible retribution.
*Withdrawing all U.S. forces from the peninsula and abrogating the U.S.-South Korea mutual security treaty because of rampant
anti-Americanism in Seoul, a rising tendency to appease North Korea, and a penchant for blaming the United States for blocking
On the future of Korea, the United States would tell South Korea and North Korea that they themselves must resolve the
question of reconciliation or reunification but not to expect American political or economic help. As the United Nations Command
in Seoul would be dissolved, the United Nations would be advised that its Security Council would be responsible for executing
whatever policies were decided for Korea.
Elsewhere, the United Statest would assure the Japanese that the withdrawal applied only to Korea and that it would fulfill
all of its security obligations to Japan. In addition, the United States would pledge full support to Japan in dealing with
North Korea on the issue of abducted Japanese citizens and would back Japan on whatever economic sanctions it decided to apply
Similarly, Washington would reassure Taiwan that the United States would continue to meet its obligations to help defend
that island nation under the Taiwan Relations Act. The United States would reassure treaty allies in the Philippines, Thailand,
and Australia, and friends such as Singapore, that the United States was not pulling out of Asia.
Further, the United States would tell the Chinese, who have been hosts of the six-party talks intended to dissuade North
Korea from its nuclear ambitions, that the United States would quietly support Beijing's efforts to contain North Korea. Just
as the United States does not want North Korean missiles aimed at Okinawa or Hawaii, so the Chinese do not want North Korean
nuclear arms facing them across the Yalu River.
The consequences of the U.S. disengagement from Korea would be several. Perhaps most telling would be a more intense isolation
of Pyongyang from the outside world. That, in turn, might well increase the internal pressures for reform and even a regime
change within North Korea.
North Korea's economic disasters resulting from mismanagement and natural causes are well known. Now, even though it is
a hermit kingdom, hints are leaking out that not all is well politically and that dissent has begun to rumble through Kim
Jong-il's government. Perhaps the regime of the "Dear Leader" will collapse of its own misdeeds.
An American disengagement from Korea would most likely nudge Japan to accelerate its already steady move toward a more
assertive security posture, which the United States would welcome. There is no reason to believe, however, that this would
push Japan to acquire nuclear arms
China would be faced with a critical decision. Some years ago, Chinese leaders quietly told American officials that they
would do whatever was necessary to keep North Korea afloat and that they have the foreign exchange reserves, which are the
world's largest, to do it. Chinese leaders may have since changed their minds and would see Kim Jong-il's departure as advantageous.
For the United States, the main benefit of disengagement would be freeing American troops in Korea for duties elsewhere.
U.S. forces are stretched thin around the world and obtaining the services of those in Korea would be welcomed in the Pentagon.
Those troops would not go to Okinawa, where there is already friction between Japanese and Americans, but could be posted
in Guam, Hawaii, or the U.S. mainland.
The chances of this strategy coming to pass are limited because it is too unconventional and all political leaders seem
to be pursuing negotiations. But maybe this is a time for imaginative, alternative thinking.
Richard Halloran, a former New York Times correspondent in Asia and military correspondent in Washington, D.C., writes