Doug Bandow calls South Korea a “defense welfare queen” and argues, that “Both America and South Korea pay a high price for the South’s unnecessary defense dependence.”
1. American defense of South Korea involves the full range of America’s military assets, from troops to planes.
2. American defense requires special assets.
3. America is integral to South Korean security; South Korea doesn’t protect the American homeland.
4. The presence of “dual-use” American military forces on the peninsula antagonizes China.
5. The alliance complicates future realtions with North Korea, which is not a threat to the United States and is not a trade priority.
6. The alliance costs the South Koreans for military assets and global deployments that are not in its interest.
7. The United States has frustrated the expansion of Seoul’s nuclear and missile programs.
8. The military alliance prompts Seoul to appease Pyongyang economically.
This policy obviously is no bargain for America: the South underwrites the military of the nation against which the U.S. is prepared to go to war. In return, Washington receives marginal assistance from the ROK in conflicts the U.S. should not be fighting.
The strategy looks equally dubious for the South. Complained Edward Luttwak, “South Korea has matched the North’s bellicosity with its own strategic perversity: It remains obsessed with an utterly unthreatening Japan and has been purchasing air power to contend with imagined threats from Tokyo as opposed to the real ones just north of the demilitarized zone. Seoul is simply unwilling to acquire military strength to match its vastly superior economy.”
Even so, the decision should be Seoul’s alone—if America was not defending the South. Washington has reason to object to being asked to defend the ROK from an enemy which the ROK is subsidizing. If Seoul responds that the subsidies don’t matter because the DPRK poses no threat, then U.S. military support is unnecessary.
Of course, Washington cannot force the ROK to change policy, though the House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering legislation urging Seoul to close the KIC. Luttwak suggested that “The price of continued U.S. protection should be the adoption of a serious defense policy, the closure of the Kaesong racket, and a complete end to cash transfers to the North, whatever the excuse.” Better would be to end the unnecessary protection for the South, leaving the latter to make its own choice.
Can and should the alliance, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, survive? While South Koreans’ desire for a cheap defense ride might override their nationalistic desire to be treated as equals, the U.S. gains no comparable benefits for entangling itself in the Korean imbroglio. The alliance made sense for Washington six decades ago, but not today.
Americans should laud the alliance for a job well done. And emphasize the cultural, family, and economic ties which continue to bind the two peoples. But Washington should leave Seoul to take over responsibility for South Korea’s defense. If the ROK wants to be treated like a grown-up, it should act like one.
The United States remains firmly committed to the defense of the ROK, including through extended deterrence and the full range of U.S. military capabilities, both conventional and nuclear.
Our two countries will fully implement the KORUS FTA to ensure that the agreement serves as an economic growth engine in both our countries.
We pledge to continue to build a better and more secure future for all Korean people, working on the basis of the Joint Vision to foster enduring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and its peaceful reunification based on the principles of denuclearization, democracy and a free market economy.
The ROK-U.S. alliance is an increasingly global partnership, and the U.S. welcomes the ROK’s leadership and active engagement on the world stage, including in international fora. We will strengthen our efforts to address global challenges such as climate change and to promote clean energy, energy security, human rights, humanitarian assistance, development assistance cooperation, counter-terrorism, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, nuclear safety, non-proliferation, cybersecurity, and counter-piracy.
Our 60 years of partnership and shared prosperity have demonstrated that the strength of our alliance stems from the close relationships between our peoples. The large Korean-American community in the U.S. not only serves as a significant link between our two countries, but also makes countless contributions to the strength and vitality of American society. We pledge to continue programs and efforts to build even closer ties between our societies, including cooperation among business, civic, academic, and other institutions.
Seoul gets rich, to accentuate how much more “normal” it is compared to North Korea, and Americans continue to protect it from a family feud. And, arguably, the real linchpins of American security and economic interests in the region, Japan and China are nowhere near consolidating an international regime that is in the United States’ interest. This is a stiff price to pay, to assuage South Koreans’ hatred of Japan and their determination to hate the planet for their own inability to develop into a real nation. All this for a cabal of disgustingly manipulative and corrupt gerontocrats in Seoul who sit like princesses atop the corporate hierarchy of a not-quite democratized plutocracy.
Fuck the Koreans!