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Proposed Bureau to Oversee Military Ties with China and Russia

Proposed Bureau to Oversee Military Ties with China and Russia

Posted April. 06, 2005 23:23,   


It was confirmed on Wednesday that the Ministry of National Defense is planning to create a policy desk, provisionally dubbed the Department of Northeast Asian Policy, to oversee military cooperation with China and Russia.

The drive comes on the heels of a recent policy announcement by defense minister Yoon Kwang-ung to strengthen military ties with China, as a follow-up military gesture to supplement President Roh Moo-hyun’s design to position Korea as a “balancing force in the Northeast Asian region.” The plan is expected to have profound repercussions on the existing Korea-U.S. alliance.

A defense ministry insider remarked on Wednesday that the ministry is planning to establish a policy bureau by the year’s end, exclusively tasked with the role of bolstering military ties with regional neighbors such as China, Russia and Japan. The official noted that civilian and military personnel blending competence and expertise will be deployed to propel full-fledged exchange with regional countries. He added that the proposed bureau’s official title is still under consideration. “Against the backdrop of substantially increased economic transactions between Korea and China, the government seeks to ride and endorse the tide of change sweeping across the region’s military landscape, a positioning reflective of President Roh’s pledge to place Northeast Asian themes on the top of his policy agenda list,” the official explained.

It is the first time since the establishment of the Korean armed forces that the defense ministry is creating a department to head up military exchanges with neighboring countries such as China and Russia. The ministry’s current endorsement of international military affairs is processed through its twin offices of the Department of U.S. Policy, in charge of workings with Washington, and the Department of Foreign Policy, assigned with handling military involvement with other countries including those in the Northeast Asian region, on such themes as military exchange and the dispatch of Korean troops to overseas operations.

The defense ministry’s recent move is reportedly unnerving to many within the armed forces circle. Gearing up military cooperation with China at a time when the Korea-U.S. alliance is being tested, evidenced again just recently when the U.S. Forces Korea (U.S.F.K.) strongly protested the Korean government’s decision to slash its share of the defense burden, is bound to ignite a polemic debate.

A senior military official warned that the creation of the proposed policy bureau could invite Washington’s resentment and misunderstanding, should this administration veer too close to China on the pretext of the notion of “equidistant military diplomacy.”

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com