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Future of the Security of the Korean Peninsula and USFK

Posted November. 03, 2004 22:58,   


After domestic national security experts predicted that incumbent George W. Bush will be re-elected to the presidency, they came to a consensus that the future of the Korean Peninsula’s security planning will maintain its previous course and rate of implementation.

Even if Democratic Party candidate John Kerry were to have been elected as president, military arrangements agreed upon by both Korea and the U.S. most likely would not have changed.

The previously scheduled transfer of 10 military tasks formerly handled by the United States Forces Korea (USFK) to the Republic of Korea (ROK) army, the reduction of the USFK by 12,500 troops, and the Yongsan U.S. military base shift to the Pyeongtak district in Gyeonggi Province will be carried out and completed on schedule by 2006-2008.

During the 2005~2008 second term of the Bush administration, Korea and the U.S. will have many military issues to discuss. Talks between the diplomatic security lines of the two nations, starting with whether the 25,000 USFK troops that will be left in the Korean Peninsula will be reconfigured for rapid deployment in the East Asian region and on a number of other issues, will begin.

In compliance of the Global Defense Posture Review (GPR), President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld want U.S. troops deployed abroad to be used to check regional hostilities rather than be used to defend countries where U.S. troops are stationed.

However, the Korean government does not want U.S. troops stationed in Korea to be deployed to disputes that arise outside of the Korean Peninsula.

An official from the Korean Ministry of Defense said, “Since it is not likely that the Bush administration will change its fundamental policies, the expansion of the role of USFK troops will be inevitable. The Korean government will focus on making as many of its demands applied during the process.”

Also, the issue of whether the ROK army will be given operational command for U.S.-Korea allied forces during wartime will be discussed during the upcoming Bush administration.

Before the end of the next year, the U.S. and Korean military plan to hand over primary results of the “Research of the Alliance Chain of Command,” study which will include who will have wartime operational command. Even though wartime operational command will not be turned over during the process, tasks handled by the ROK army and the USFK will be reconfigured after USFK troop reductions take place.

For now, much attention will be focused around the withdrawal of Zaitoon forces sometime next year in January. Although the Korean government plans to extend its deployment until December 31 of next year, it is most likely that the Korean government will present its position that the period of deployment could be abridged in accordance to the changing Iraqi political climate and domestic public opinion towards the U.S.

Some officials of the Ministry of National Defense predict that the outcome of the Bush administration towards the withdrawal of the Zaitoon forces will serve as a barometer for the future Korea-U.S. alliance.

On the other hand, the issue of whether the task of addressing North Korean long range artillery will be handed over to the ROK army is planned to be determined after proper military assessments are made. However, considering the resulting insecurity that will spread among Korean citizens, bilateral political negations between the heads of each nation will be necessary.

Ho-Won Choi bestiger@donga.com