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Pres. Park must correct misunderstanding about ‘free ride of security’ in Washington

Pres. Park must correct misunderstanding about ‘free ride of security’ in Washington

Posted October. 15, 2015 07:35,   


The person who dealt a counterblow to Donald Trump, a leading presidential candidate for the U.S. Republican Party who has claimed "Korea is free riding security," is a 20-year-old college student, who is a second-generation Korean American. Joseph Choi (Korean name Choi Min-woo), a Harvard University student, refuted Trump’s claim by suggesting specific figures, saying, “You said that South Korea takes advantage of the United States in terms of the defense spending on the Korean Peninsula. You said that they don`t pay anything ... I just want to get the facts straight. South Korea paid 861 million dollars.” Perplexed, Trump countered Choi by saying “It is still a peanut,” but his downplaying of 932 billion won (814 million dollars), which South Korea is paying this year to share the cost for the U.S. troops’ stationing in South Korea, is far from being accurate.

The problem is that many opinions in the U.S. sympathize with Trump’s blunt remarks. The Diplomat magazine of the U.S. carried an op-ed piece in July, saying, “U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump appears to have taken aim at South Korea over its heavy reliance on the American military for its defense. While campaigning in South Carolina on Tuesday, the bombastic Republican contender seemed to suggest that South Korea, as a wealthy country in its own right, doesn’t deserve U.S. protection.” At the parliamentary inspection of the government conducted last month, Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se said, “We almost have not seen any argument in the U.S. media claiming that South Korea is leaning towards China since the event marking China’s War Victory (in Beijing),” but some in the U.S. have the view that South Korea is lukewarm in its stance over regional security issues in East Asia, as the latter is mindful of China.

However, the argument that "Korea is free riding security" stems from the misunderstanding that the U.S. is giving unilateral benefits to South Korea. The U.S., which pursues "rebalancing to Asia," is gaining strategic benefits of countering North Korea’s provocations that threaten the U.S. mainland through intercontinental ballistic missile, and keep China at bay through the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. South Korea is the country that imports highly expensive weapons from the U.S. more than any other nations, as it brings in 80 percent of its weapons imports from the U.S. As South Korea has imported U.S. weapons and equipment extensively in consideration of the South Korea-U.S. joint defense mechanism, the U.S. also has a lot to gain through the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

In her summit with U.S. President Barack Obama to be held on Friday, President Park Geun-hye should address the claim of (South Korea’s) free ride of security and dispel Washington’s suspicion over Seoul’s leaning towards China (over the U.S.). To further strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance, South Korea should discuss areas where it can contribute, such as maintaining of order of regional security including South China Sea areas, cyber security and war on terrorism. Seoul also needs to have in-depth talks, albeit unofficially, about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which the U.S. seeks to deploy on the Korean Peninsula, by using the upcoming opportunity.

Moreover, if South Korea can get from the U.S. transfer of core technologies required for its development of the Korea Fighter Experimental (KF-X), or the Korean standard fighter jet, it will be able to proclaim internally and externally the special value of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. Seoul should upgrade the South Korea-U.S. alliance by implementing "pragmatic diplomacy to create win-win situations," in which it actively responds to the U.S. and cooperate in areas where it can to contribute to world order led by the U.S. in proportion to its national power, and secures without fail its interests in issues that require Washington’s cooperation.