Nourishing Obscurity has some information on the coming end of the U.S. presence in South Korea.
It seems as though President Roh has been romancing North Korea and things have been getting chummy. Roh was in Washington recently for a most unceremonious meeting with President Bush, and the long marriage between America and South Korea did not appear to be ending happily. Mr. Higham, of the aforementioned blog, has excerpts from an essay in The Asia Times by an American scholar, Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee, on the situation. Here are further snips from the original:
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s summit with President George W Bush on[last] Thursday is likely to go down in the annals of US-South Korea relations as an epoch-making event, but not quite in the way one might think. It may be the swan song of the US-South Korea alliance.
On its face, Roh’s meeting with Bush was a routine, even forgettable exercise in ordinary summit diplomacy. The two men had already enjoyed five cordial if unmemorable meetings since Roh’s inauguration in 2003, and neither side issued a press-stopping communiqué out of the scheduled hour-long conversation followed by an obligatory luncheon.
Nonetheless, Roh’s visit may inadvertently prove to be a defining moment for the US-South Korea alliance, presaging its sunset, for beneath the public smiles and handshakes between the two leaders and optimistic-sounding but inscrutable pronouncements, such as seeking a “joint comprehensive approach” to restarting the six-party talks, unmistakably flowed an undercurrent of unfriendly distrust.
The alliance has proved to be one of the most successful and durable in the world. But today Roh wishes to destroy its time-tested dynamics by wresting away from the United States wartime operational control of the two countries’ armed forces, the result of which will be the complete and virtually irreversible dismantlement of the US-ROK (Republic of Korea) Combined Forces Command.
This will set the stage, at the cost of broader US interests in Northeast Asia and to the detriment of South Korea’s security, for the withdrawal of US troops from Korea.
President Roh believes he has little to lose by insisting on the transfer of wartime operational control, which he pointedly defined recently as the “essence of sovereignty for any nation.”
Hmm…It may also be that having a 600 pound radioactive gorilla on your borders does even more to “define” sovereignty. Roh may be caught between a rock and a hard place, and one of those is spelled e-l-e-c-t-i-o-n-s:
President Roh has proved to be different from his predecessors. During his three and a half years in office, Roh has followed through on his words with actions. True to his rhetoric, “So what if I am anti-US?” or “Yes, my anti-US stance has been good to me,” Roh has unflinchingly and systematically aided the enemy of the United States — and incontrovertibly the main enemy of the US Forces in Korea (USFK) — the totalitarian North Korean state that is bent on increasing its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
As Dr. Lee observed, Bush is aware of the pitfalls here:
Keeping in mind that the issue is a potential trap for instigating anti-US demonstrations leading up to South Korea’s presidential election in December next year, Bush simply intoned that the matter should not become “a political issue”. Bush even deftly took a page out of the communist playbook of a “hardliner/softliner” smokescreen, and simply told his guest that South Korea should take up the matter with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
It remains to be seen what the Democrats do with this turn of events. While the bell is tolling, they may be spinning this for all it’s worth as yet another Bush failure.
Whatever. Roh has his own plans and we have other allies in the area. Personally, those base closings appeal to my isolationist heart. Now, let’s see what we can safely remove from Germany and transfer to Eastern Europe.
As for Bush’s “failure,” if the man parted the Red Sea, his enemies would bash him for failing to keep the water in place.
While all the hopeful primary candidates for 2008 are lining up, chomping at the bit, Bush probably has a secret calendar on which he marks off the days left till he gets to walk across the lawn and climb into the helicopter in January, 2009. Unlike his predecessor, he has a real life awaiting him, far from the Beltway.