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
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
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.
Wortzel, Ph.D. is Vice President of Foreign Policy and
Defense Studies at The Heritage Foundation.