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U.S Missile Defense and South Korea's Dilemmas

Cheong Wooksik, the Representative of Civil Network for a Peaceful Korea

1. South Korea's Unwillingly Participation of MD

The initiative of the U.S. government, which has the most powerful and greatest number of offensive weapons, to deploy the missile defense(MD), is nothing more than a design to secure hegemonic monopoly by enhancing preemptive strike capabilities and dominating the space. It is because of this that China and Russia have declared that they would build up their nuclear and missile capabilities. If this situation goes on, the world will face a new arms race and an unstable order.

The U.S. is in a great hurry to build and rush MD, using as an excuse that it is defending itself and its allies against missile attacks from "rouge states", especially North Korea. This means that the U.S. would obtain supremacy in the 21st century by taking overwhelming military power and monopolizing the space. Furthermore, as the world knows, it will guarantee the U.S. defense industries, the biggest sponsor of the Bush administration, unlimited profits.

In particular, the Bush administration is justifying this project by fabricating or overstating North Korean threat. Now it is also creating new security tensions on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, the U.S. is forcibly demanding that South Korea should support MD and participate in it. The U.S. presses South Korea to buy American-made weapons which need astronomical amounts of money. This Cold-War attitude of the U.S. is causing a new arms race and new tensions on the Korean Peninsula, at a time when the two Koreas are trying to greet a new era of peaceful settlement and cooperation.

MD plan cannot exist together with the peace and re-unification of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. is attempting to make a Cold-war order in East Asia by compelling participation in the project and also by considering North Korea and potentially China as an enemy. It is making the military confrontation on the peninsula more serious.

South Korean Government's First choice

"We don't have a plan to join the Theater Missile Defense system."

The former President Kim Daejung made this announcement to CNN on May 5th, 1999. At that moment, the U.S. Department of Defense asked South Korea, Japan and Taiwan to join in the Asia-Pacific MD construction plan. The statement of President Kim was striking enough to be in the spotlight inside and outside of South Korea. According to the political trend of the South Korean government of emphasizing the relationship with the U.S., it embodied the message that Korea's government was no longer to be involved in MD. Then, why did Mr. Kim speak of disagreement on MD in spite of an expected uncomfortable relationship with the U.S.? The reasons are effective at now, even in the future.

First of all, MD doesn't help South Korea's security at all. The threat of a North Korean mainly involves about long range artilleries of which range approximately 40-70 km, not missiles. Also, it is so hard to detect, pursue and intercept a missile which flies within 3-5 minutes from North Korea through a small battlefield and mountainous areas. There isn't any reason for South Korea to take a risk of an arms race with North Korea, China and Russia.

Secondly, an astronomical amount of money would be needed to join MD. In South Korea's case, buying three Aegis weapon systems and 48 missiles of PAC-3 costs already about $ 4 billion, and if we count cost of operation and management of the systems, the direct and indirect cost will be billions of dollars.

Thirdly, South Korea has to consider the relationships with China and Russia as well as North Korea. The framework of Sunshine policy toward North Korea clears off the cold war system on the Korean peninsula through positive reconciliation and cooperation. Since MD basically can neutralize North Korean missiles, which North Korea is strongly considering as the deterrence against the U.S. led military attack. In this context, it will harm South Korean's relationship with North Korea if South Korea joins MD.

Mr. Bush's big pressure

During the summit meeting between South Korea and Russia before the Former President Kim visited the U.S., both countries adopted a joint communique about preserving and strengthening the ABM treaty early March 2001. The position of Mr. Kim concerning the ABM treaty was strongly against that of President Bush who took the ABM treaty as a big barrier of MD. Since the situation has become more serious than South Korea expected, the Kim's government has made apologies several times during the visit of the U.S., by saying "South Korea is not against MD."

Before Mr. Kim arrived in Washington D.C, the Bush administration pushed for the Kim's government's approval and participation on MD. A senior Security Advisor aide of the U.S. spoke plainly that the Korea-US summit meeting would turn out in a better mood if South Korea support MD on March 8 2001. The arrogance of the Bush administration even handed a claim letter for public speech about South Korean government's position on MD. Through the letter, the Bush administration pressed Mr. Kim to announce that South Korea needed to deploy an effective missile defense for its national defense.

But Mr. Kim rejected the U.S. claim, which dragged "inhospitality" during his visit to the U.S. President Bush ignored President Kim's demand to support the Sunshine Policy including the improving relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, and showed a consistently negative attitude towards North Korea. This could be because the South Korean government rejected MD, but also because the U.S. may fear having problems on MD if the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea went well.

The Roh Moo Hyeon's government, a successor of Sunshine Policy, also says that it is not considering participation of MD. But regardless of South Korea's choice, the Bush Administration has pushed for making South Korea as the forward operation base of MD.

In spite of South Korea's unwillingness, the Bush Administration has been taking steps to involve South Korea into MD by deploying related weapons and radars. The U.S. already deployed Patriot missiles including PAC-3 and Joint Tactical Ground Station, which is mobile early warning radar in South Korea last August. and also is planning to deploy two more batteries in Western part of South Korea and an Aegis destroyer on East Sea(Sea of Japan) in this fall.

2. Transformation of U.S military and Preemptive Strike against North Korea

While reducing one third of its 37,000 troops in South Korea, the United States has decided to beef up its military capabilities in and around the Korean peninsula. Improving the military capability of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) is accomplished by bringing to bear such systems as Patriot PAC-3, the army's new Stryker brigade, an Aegis destroyer, the navy's High-Speed Vessel, advanced C4I systems, JDAM(joint direct-attack munition), "stealth bomber" F-117A aircrafts and new bunker-busters weapons such as BLU-118B and ATACM-P. These capabilities would be backed by the forward-deployment of additional air and naval assets to Hawaii, Guam and Japan.

At the same time, the U.S. is relocating the 2nd division of the USFK from the Demilitarized-Zone (DMZ) as well as moving the forces in Yongsan, Seoul to Osan Air Base, Pyeongtaek, and the central part of Korea.

The U.S. officials call these changes as "transformation of USFK".

There are four objectives that the U.S. wants to achieve through the transformation of USFK. The first is the permanent presence of U.S. forces in Korea through consolidating and rearranging the USFK bases. The second is building the capability for preemptive actions through relocating the USFK to beyond North Korea's artillery range and establishing the MD system. The third is the containment and siege of China, a nation viewed as a significant threat by U.S. hawks. The final objective is to increase military mobility of its troops in Korea can be more quickly deployed to other areas around the globe while giving the burden of defending against North Korea to South Korean army.

Here is the big problem. The U.S. military build-up in and around Korea to avoid a "security vacuum" by reducing the numbers of USFK can create and heighten uncertainty. In other words, without any progress in U.S.-North Korea relations, the changes in military power, considering the U.S. adapted the preemptive strike doctrine against "rogue states" such as North Korea "if necessary," can bring about a backlash from North Korea.

North Korea has been condemning the transformation of USFK as a preliminary step in the U.S. invasion of North Korea. In North Korean eyes, the U.S. military base relocation and expansion of offensive, defensive and intelligence capabilities are seen as a threat to its security. North Korea believes that relocating U.S. military bases out of North Korea's long-range artillery reach, while strengthening both its offensive and defensive capabilities, will undermine North Korea's deterrence.

When the U.S. considers the preemptive strike against North Korea, the biggest obstacle is the unimaginable damage of the U.S. soldiers. For example, according to a 1994 USFK war simulation, a second Korean War could result in the death of 50,000-100,000 U.S. soldiers for three months.

Since then, the military situation and balance has been changed. The forward deployed U.S. troops who are within the range of North Korean artilleries will be cut and move to Osan-Pyeongtaek. And the U.S. will have missile defense systems that can intercept some of North Korean missiles in South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. homeland.

If the U.S. had shields, it could use its powerful spears without fear of counter-damage. The U.S. adapted the preemptive strike strategy against "rogues states" that try to seek weapons of mass destruction like North Korea. The U.S. builds up offensive weapons and C4I in and around Korea. That's why North Korea fears MD and many South Korean oppose it.

3. ROK-US alliance, China and South Korea's dilemma

The direction of Americafs core foreign policy in the 21st century seems to contain and siege China, an emerging power. As one of this strategy, the U.S. strengthens military alliance with South Korea and Japan. Especially, the U.S. takes steps to make Japan as the hub and reorganize South Korea as the forward deployed power projection base.

The U.S. relocates its bases in Korea. The U.S. gathers its air power and missile defense systems at southwestern part of South Korea while it makes new military support facilities at southeastern part. What does it mean? Some of Korean guess that the transformation of USFK target at China, though South Korean government denies it.

The U.S. tries to expand the role and mission of USFK beyond the Korean peninsula, while South Korea is unwilling to accept it. This is a dilemma to Korea. Korean government wants to keep military alliance with the U.S., and it thinks that South Korea should accept some of the demands from the U.S. such as sending South Korean troop to Iraq, even though majority of Korean opposes it.

But the demands of the U.S. becomes unacceptable to Korea. The U.S. considers Korea's geopolitical importance, and presses to accept MD and a regional alliance that may target at China.

Responding to these unjust and dangerous pressures, many Korean peoples anOs protest against the U.S. and press the South Korean government not to give in the pressures from the U.S.





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