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[Editorial] The Korea-U.S. Alliance

Posted May. 03, 2006 03:00,   


The U.S. and Japan concluded a joint report on the realignment and relocation of U.S. troops stationed in Japan in a U.S.-Japan security guarantee meeting held two days ago in Washington. The report is about strengthening their bilateral military alliance so much that some analyze it as an “actual integration of U.S. forces stationed in Japan and the Self-Defense Forces.” It is contrary to the Korea-U.S. alliance which has constantly been showing signs of slackening and cracking since the Roh Moo-hyun administration took office.

The strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance is to deal with military threats from North Korea, including the communist country’s nuclear weapons and missiles, and the potential threat from China, which is rapidly increasing its influence in the region. Korea would have joined the move under the two-pillar structure of the Korea-U.S. alliance and the U.S.-Japan alliance in the past, but the situation is different now.

That is because Korea-China relations have become closer and because the incumbent Korean government’s diplomatic policy, which claims self-reliance, national cooperation, and the title of “balancer of Northeast Asia,” has weakened Korea-U.S. relations by comparison. The limitation on “strategic flexibility” of U.S. forces stationed in Korea that the government imposed also played a part in alienating the U.S. The government imposed the limitation after careful considerations, being mindful of China, to prevent mobilization of U.S. forces in Korea in case conflicts emerge in the Taiwan Strait. But it is understandable that the U.S. might have been displeased with the measure.

At issue is what Korea’s choice will be in a situation where the balance between the Korea-U.S. alliance and the U.S.-Japan alliance has broken. Could the U.S.-Japan alliance or China fill up for the slackening alliance between Korea and the U.S.? Korea has already seen the answer in Japan’s rapid rightist movement, provocation over the East Sea, and China’s Northeast Asia project. Recently, some even argue, “the U.S. and China should devise the future of the Korean peninsula based on mutual interests, ruling out the two Koreas.” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is one of them.

Korea’s only choice would be the strengthening of the Korea-U.S. alliance. The bilateral alliance has to be consolidated for healthy development of the Korea-Japan alliance and for checking China’s imperialistic aspirations which will unfold in full swing later. There is no other option for Korea in a situation where the Korean peninsula is divided and North Korea continues to dabble with its nuclear program. This is also the reason why the country should speed up signing a free trade agreement with Washington. It is too soon for Korea to “stand on its own.” The country should wisely use the Korea-U.S. alliance.