America's primary regional security interests are best served by preserving the stability of Northeast Asia, an area plagued by war for most of the past century.
Without an American military presence, deep historical animosities and territorial disputes among Russia, China, Japan, and the two Koreas would lead to a major race for military dominance. A delicate balance has existed since the end of World War Two, when Japan renounced offensive military force and rejected nuclear weapons. Pulling out US troops would destroy that balance.
America's military presence in Northeast Asia has provided the glue for security arrangements that offered protection to its allies and reassurances that helped avert an arms race among enemies that have fought each other for centuries.
America's bilateral security treaties with Japan and South Korea, respectively, ensure that United States military, political, and economic interests in the region are protected. The forward presence of U.S. troops also serves to protect the democracies of South Korea and Taiwan from hostile threats by Leninist dictatorships in North Korea and China.
Japan depends on the presence of U.S. military forces. It maintains its peace constitution, eschews the development of an offensive military force, and feels secure in a nuclear age without a nuclear arsenal because of American security guarantees. For South Korea, the presence of U.S. combat forces has created the conditions that permitted democracy and a market economy to flourish.
In South Korea, the voters elected a candidate that wants to pursue dialogue with North Korea. They elected a candidate who emphasized engaging North Korea regardless of North Korea's reactions or reciprocity. Even though there have been protests, both South Korean presidential candidates, and the majority of the citizens of South Korea, continue to recognize the stability and security that the U.S. presence in Korea provides. It is imperative for Americans to remember that in the final analysis, the forward deployment of U.S. troops serves American interests even as it advances our values.
Larry M. Wortzel, Ph.D. is Vice President of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at The Heritage Foundation.