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“Discordance over USFK Transfer, An Evidence of a Loophole in ROK-U.S. Relationship”

“Discordance over USFK Transfer, An Evidence of a Loophole in ROK-U.S. Relationship”

Posted May. 21, 2004 22:25,   


“The controversy in Korea over the transfer of United States Forces in Korea (USFK) shows that the policy arbitration between Korea and the U.S. is not functioning properly. The big problem, in particular, is that the reduction of USFK is not being done transparently among the two countries.”

Senior Researcher Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute(AEI) made a profound remark saying, “It is a funny coincidence that the number of troops, 3,600, the U.S. plans to transfer to Iraq ironically matches the number of Korean troops that were planned to be sent to Iraq.”

We met with Dr. Eberstadt, who visited Korea to participate in a symposium hosted on May 20 by Center for Free Enterprise, an affiliate of the Federation of Korean Industries, at the Seoul Plaza Hotel.

Does the transfer of USFK to Iraq signify that there are problems in ROK-U.S. relationship?—

“There are many talks about whether or not there were some arbitration between Korea and the U.S. in the process of making a decision or not, or whether it was opposed (by Korea) if there were some arbitration. It is not clear whether this transfer came as a part of USFK’s realignment strategy or came out of the blue, but it is certain that it is an evidence of a loophole in the relationship between the two countries”

What do you think is the main source of the problem in ROK-US relationship?—

“It has something to do with Korea insisting that North Korea no longer poses great threat in an effort to promote the Sunshine Policy. People started asking why the USFK still remains if North Korea was no longer a threat. The U.S. administration is responsible for not conferring with Korea. When Vice President Dick Cheney visited Korea in April, he did not speak to Koreans; rather he spoke only to the American audiences. The U.S. administration does not have a strategy about its policies regarding the Korean Peninsula. “

We heard there are polarized opinions among different generations about the ROK-US relationship within the U.S. Department of Defense—

“It is true that there are some conflicts within the department. However, there are some difficulties in seeing the problem as a conflict between different generations. It is just that people insist on different approaches to the issues of North Korea and hold different perspective about Korea.”

Do you expect to see some results from the six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear issue?—

“The six-party talk reminds me of Western Europe’s ‘Conference Diplomacy’ of the 1930s. The six-party talk seem to resembles the way they thought everything will run along fine when they lured Germany out to the table. In order to reach a practical solution, it should be most effective to have North Korea trade in their nuclear weapons in exchange for economic aid and security guarantee.”

According to a survey done on assemblymen of the Uri Party, the majority party of Korea’s National Assembly, many of them thought that the focus should be on China rather than on the United States. What is your opinion on the idea?—

“It is an interesting point. It is good to form a cooperative relationship with China and it is an essential part. However, replacing ROK-U.S. relationship with ROK-China relationship through an emotional approach may bring sour result. There is the gap between one being a democratic nation when the other is not, and the problems of financial cooperation as well as risking problems in the security structure.”

Young-Sik Kim Jung-Ahn Kim spear@donga.com credo@donga.com