Go to contents

[Editorial] Was the U.S. Consulted On Zaytun Troop Cut?

Posted November. 23, 2005 08:11,   


The spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense Asian and Pacific Affairs stated, “The news of the reduction in the Korean forces in Iraq (the Zaytun Unit) were first known through the Korean media reports before the Korean government’s plans were officially announced.” According to the spokesperson, the information that the cut-down amounted to 1,000 soldiers was also gained through media reports. This is completely different from the Korean Ministry of National Defense’s claim that, “We have closely consulted with the U.S. for two to three months, and the U.S. understood our position.” This discrepancy means that one side is not telling the truth.

The Zaytun Unit is symbolic as it has propped up the Korea-U.S. alliance that grew strained after the launch of the current government. Therefore, if the troop size is to be reduced, it is appropriate that bilateral consultations are held beforehand. It does not make sense that the claims of the two sides are so different. We must find out which side is right through thorough investigation. If we take this incident lightly, trust, which is the cornerstone of our alliance, will be lost.

Even if it turns out that the U.S. Department of Defense did not know consultations were ongoing between the two nations through a different channel, the Korean government cannot escape blame for its diplomatic incompetence and lack of ability in the troop reduction decision-making process. Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan said yesterday, “The Defense Ministry mismanaged the (reduction) news,” but this can not be an excuse. For what reason did the government make such a sensitive military decision when U.S. President George W. Bush is visiting Korea, putting him in an awkward position and giving rise to unnecessary controversy?

How can a head-of-state not feel slighted and the people of that nation understand the situation when the plan to reduce the Zaytun Unit soldiers by 1,000 was reported to the ruling party and approved at the Cabinet meeting just one day after President Bush expressed his gratitude to President Roh Moo-hyun for the troop dispatch to Iraq at the summit meeting held in Gyeongju on November 17? Even Korea’s military circle is criticizing the situation, “This is as if the U.S. announced its plan to reduce USFK the day after a bilateral summit in Washington.” An alliance can be maintained when both sides are prudent and considerate towards one another. This does not mean taking a low posture but is the minimum decorum to heed in the rapidly changing situation of Northeast Asia.