The diplomacy and security pledge that includes 20 policies in the fields of North Korea, diplomacy, and defense, including the North Korean nuclear issue and the ROK-U.S. alliance, announced on the 24th by Yun Seok-yeol, the presidential candidate for People’s Strength, will further strengthen the existing ROK-U.S. military alliance and worsen relations with China. It can be reduced to high risk.
Among the related contents announced by Candidate Yoon at the Yeouido office on the same day, the main ones were ① strengthening the strategic alliance with the United States to establish regional order together, ② seeking to join the ‘Quad’, a consultative body of four countries including the United States, and strategic bombers and aircraft carriers. ·Strengthen the implementation of the ROK-U.S. extended deterrence (nuclear umbrella) through the deployment of US strategic assets such as nuclear submarines and strengthening regular exercises ③ Normalize the THAAD base in Seongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do ④ Normalize the ROK-US combined exercise and take preemptive action against North Korea The goal is to achieve complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea through principled negotiations and strengthening its countermeasures against North Korea’s nuclear weapons, such as securing strike capability.
Candidate Yoon’s announcement above is a policy that strengthens cooperation with the United States in the US-China hegemony, and there is concern about backlash from China. The situation in Northeast Asia in the 21st century is showing signs of a revival of the new Cold War with the US’ all-round pressure and encirclement strategy against China, and Korea’s role is becoming more important than ever. Under this circumstance, Candidate Yun failed to come up with a plan to promote peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, only strengthening the ROK-US military alliance that has been subordinated or subordinated to the United States for decades.
The most disappointing thing is that it is difficult to believe that candidate Yoon had deeply reflected on the economic relationship between Korea and China before coming up with such an idea. When China deployed THAAD in Seongju in 2017, it used economic retaliation against South Korea. As a result, the Korean tourism industry and some large corporations suffered heavy losses. Considering that China’s role in the Korean economy is growing day by day, it is a fact that South Korea must adopt a very cautious policy against US pressure and blockade of China or a US-China military confrontation in Taiwan.
Korea’s exports to China more than the US and Japan combined
Looking at Korea-China economic relations, from a few years ago, Korea’s exports to China have exceeded that of the United States and Japan combined. According to the Korea International Trade Association, as of 2020, as of 2020, China ranked first with 25.8 percent ($132.5 billion) of exports, the United States second with 14.5 percent ($74.16 billion), and Japan with 4.9 percent. ($25.09 billion) (Maeil Economic Daily, January 19, 2021). Exports to China are greater than those of the United States and Japan combined. Considering this point, it is the fact that South Korea is in a situation where it has to consider two rabbits: military security and economic security. As in the Cold War era that has lasted for decades, it has become a structure that cannot cling to only the ROK-U.S. military alliance that has become one with the United States.
It is true that South Korea relied on the United States for security, etc. by signing an unequal treaty called the Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States after the Korean War, and achieved economic growth among them. However, today, Korea has become a developed country with the world’s 10th largest economy and 6th military power. However, in the structure of the ROK-U.S. alliance that has suffered from a tilted playground, even today, South Korea has been incorporated into the US military policy toward Northeast Asia or North Korea and has not been able to speak out.
Although South Korea is one of the parties to the Korean Peninsula, its policy toward North Korea is also swayed by the unilateral decision of the United States. For example, in 2018, the two Koreas held two summits and agreed on peaceful coexistence and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, resolving military threats, and creating a foundation for peaceful reunification, but the agreement was not implemented at all due to opposition from the United States. The United States is also negative about the implementation of the wartime OPCON transition, emphasizing the conditions that are not persuasive.
The US policy on the Korean Peninsula can be divided into North Korea and South Korea policies, and while the US is all-in on North Korea policy, it is either ignoring or crushing the South Korean position. That’s not all. The United States is showing its arrogant attitude, arguing that South Korea must choose the United States in the race for hegemony between the United States and China. However, it is very irrational to look at the situation in Northeast Asia in three dimensions, including the economic relations between Korea and China.
US can no longer ignore or crush South Korea’s North Korea policy
The US has been uncooperative with President Moon Jae-in’s recent declaration of an end to the war, and is opposing the peaceful method that South Korea is insisting on while enforcing a policy of containment and pressure on North Korea on the issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Not only this. The US has emphasized the presence of the UNC for several years, increasing the intensity of its interference with the armistice system, USFK remains stationed even after Korean unification, and South Korea should support the US in case of a military clash between the US and China in Taiwan in the future. They are using their logic to reinforce that propaganda and publicity campaign.
The Moon Jae-in administration mostly accepted the US policy on the Korean Peninsula, but did not raise any issues with the differences between the two countries, and did not criticize or oppose them. For THAAD in Seongju, the only job was to delay the completion of the base due to environmental impact assessment. However, it has actively participated in creating an atmosphere of the ROK-U.S. military alliance in a broad framework, such as purchasing advanced weapons from the US with a huge budget under the pretext of modernizing ROK military equipment. Whether this non-autonomous method will continue under the new government in the future requires careful review and preparation of measures, and the 20th presidential election should be an opportunity to publicize it.
However, the problem is serious because Candidate Yun’s foreign policy and security strategy are more deeply integrated into the US military strategy on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. In the US, the status of the USFK is guaranteed through numerous devices related to the ROK-US alliance, while the ROK military is not even guaranteed military sovereignty. Under this circumstance, China’s economic influence has grown, and the US Cold War-era Northeast Asia and Korean Peninsula policies have become increasingly dysfunctional. There is a growing concern that the unilateral approach to hegemonism by the United States may cause the Cold War in Northeast Asia as well as military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to settle.
The failure of the US policy on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia should be pursued as an alternative to the inter-Korean joint declaration
In this regard, we need to look back on the past. The United States continued its policy toward North Korea centered on military pressure for decades after the armistice agreement, but failed to increase the level of lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. The sense of war crisis has not been eradicated on the Korean Peninsula, and the situation is getting worse, with North Korea being threatened with nuclear weapons by the United States and reaching the point of possessing nuclear weapons. Therefore, now is the time to think about alternatives that are different from the past.
The implementation of the policy to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia according to the July 4 Declaration, the June 15 Joint Declaration, the October 4 Declaration, and the Panmunjom and Pyongyang Declarations agreed upon by the two Koreas should be seriously considered. Now is the time. Now, the United States must also listen to South Korea’s independent way of resolving military crises and creating an economic community in a peaceful way. This is becoming a very urgent task for the United States to contemplate for world peace as well. It is difficult to find such a point in Candidate Yun’s strategy at all.
Candidate Yoon should take a good look at the military situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and come up with a plan for the future ROK-US alliance. Here are a few things to consider in this regard: The US is guaranteed the right to deploy US military forces on the Korean Peninsula by the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty, so advanced weapons such as THAAD can be deployed to South Korea according to US will. In the case of US strategic assets, even if Candidate Yoon does not include them in the strategy, the US can arbitrarily decide its placement, and there is no international legal basis for South Korea to resist this. The United States has in place a mechanism to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea under its own law, including designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and Operational Plan 5015 in the ROK-U.S. warfare.
The U.S. decree puts the national interest first when sending its troops overseas, and if necessary, the U.S. president decides to terminate the alliance or withdraw U.S. troops. This is similar to President Biden’s recent decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. Since former President Trump has also mentioned the withdrawal of US forces from Korea during his tenure, it is reasonable for Candidate Yoon and others not to have the illusion that the US will station US forces in Korea forever.
In addition, in the alliance system, the US is set up for its president to make judgments about its execution or refusal, so it is necessary to thoroughly consider what it means in international law for the US to impose strict conditions on the conversion of the ROK military’s wartime OPCON. Candidate Yoon will also have to figure out the point.
The normalization of the ROK-U.S. alliance will increase the rationality and productivity of US foreign policy.
The ROK-US military alliance is laid out in layers like a spider’s web in the form of treaties, agreements, and memorandums of understanding, such as MOUs, so it is difficult to tell where the beginning and the end are. However, if we look closely at the international legal level, it can be said that the normalization of the ROK-US alliance begins with the normalization of the ROK-US alliance in that the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty plays a key role. However, this treaty has no provisions for amendment or supplementation, and only if one party notifies the other party of its denunciation, it is to be abolished one year later.
Regarding the cancellation of the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty, some are showing a unicellular reaction, only mentioning the withdrawal of US forces from Korea. That’s stupid. The answer will be given by referring to the fact that the military alliances between the Philippines and Japan with the United States were created from the equal standpoint of being a member of the United Nations. The Philippines and Japan frequently discuss alliance relations with the United States and report to the United Nations before and after an armed conflict occurs, and the alliance period is limited to 10 years. These are reasonable rules that do not exist in Hanmi Dongmae.
The fact that the ROK-US alliance is a playground that leans too far toward the United States is very deformed in light of common sense in the global village of the 21st century, and normalizing it will contribute to enhancing the rationality and productivity of US diplomacy. In view of this, if candidate Yoon has a sense of duty to lead a politics of fairness, common sense, and justice, the ROK-US alliance will also have to think about establishing peace and safety for the whole of Northeast Asia, including the Korean Peninsula.