Withdrawal of U.S. Ground Forces from Korea

Report Asia

Withdrawal of U.S. Ground Forces from Korea

June 15, 1977 29 min read Download Report
Jeffrey B.
Senior Associate Fellow

(Archived document, may contain errors)

16 June 15, 1977 WITHDRAWAL OF U. S: GROUND FORCES FROM SOUTH -KOREA Summary The proposal by President Carter to remove approximately 32,000 ground troops from the Republic of Korea over the next five years has rapidly generated enor mous public discussion with the recall of General Singlaub. Unfortunately, too much of the discussion has focused on this particularly dramatic incident and not on the broad policy questionswhich must be raised. This paper examines the basic problems whic h any withdrawal plan must encompass and concludes that as presently posed the unconditional withdrawal of American forces would dangerously lower the threshold of war on the Korean peninsula in the years immediately ahead.

The reasons that tensions will p robably increase substantially and the outbreak of hostilities be more likely to ensue results from numerous problems inherent in the withdrawal proposal. These prob lems are summarized below-and examined at greater length in the main body of this paper 1 . The manner in which the proposal has emerged reveals a basic lack of planning and preparation that is needed to engender confidence in the capacity to carry it out and maintain security in the region stationed along the DMZ with vastly larger Korean forc e s at their sides The unit has far more firepower than any Korean unit and also has the capacity to use tactical nuclear weapons which ap parently alsowouldbe removed. Thus a huge gap would be created in the existing defenses of South Korea correspond to t h is elimination of American strength But-the Presi 1 dent can only pull troops out; he cannot guarantee Congressional approval of the massive credit sales or loans for Korean purchases of American equipment 2. The American unit is not just another division of men 3. Presumably, the South Korean Airmy would be built up to aid or hinder the passage of any-bill before Congress 2 4. Even if a military buildup takes place, one cannot know if the North Koreans may in effect offset this with their own strengthenin g of forces as occurred in the period from 1971 to 19

76. They have their own large defense industries and the ROK does nofr- I I 5. In order to maintain a credible commitment in Korea the United States must have potential logistical support. to ful fill h er mutual defense treaty Qbl2G.atioh But American forces in Japan rely upon the vicissitudes of politics there and none of the Japanese parties will accept the.stationing of U.S; nu clear weapons on their soil. The U.S. is now negotiating new base agreeme nts with the Philippines and presumably will lower strength there. Similarly, the direction seems to be to a com plete phase out of Taiwan. Bases insThailand are already closed.

Thus, the Koreans sense that the U.S has no alternative base structure in East Asia that can sustain an American commitment to Korea 6. Maintaining some air and naval bases_iin Korea may not sufficiently assure the Koreans of the U.S. 'resolve. At any moment's notice, the planes can fly away and ships sail away.

Only ground forces may demonstrate real commitment to both Seoul and Pyongyang 7. Koreans feel the withdrawal move is the beginning of an abandonment under the guise of a Koreanization program. Neither the Koreans nor the American military in Korea feel that any real explan a tion has been given as to preciselywhy the withdrawal should take place at this particular time has preserved the peace for 24 years and, thus, a crisis may be created in a place where there currently is none. Asserting the Nixon or Guam Doctrine as throu g h a law of American international relations is very curious kjiven both the present reaction to the views of its author and the resul-of the policy in Vietnam The existing situation 8. Removal of American forces raises important technical questions concer n ing the future of the UN Command structure. Pre sently, the Commander of the American 8th Army is also Commander of UN forces, including all Korean military forces outside of the capitol of Seoul. If the 8th Army is withdrawn, then presumably the command s tructure would also vanish. The Koreans have al ready raised this question and do not feel they should serve an American commander in the field when no American troops accompany them. -3 9. Similarly, the armistice agreement is between the North Koreans, P eople's Republic of China, and the UN Com mander. Thus, the So.uth Koreans who, with the withdrawal will be face-to-face with North Koreans are not direct parties to the armistice. lo Nuclear proILferation may result from the withdrawal if the South Korea n s feel that the only. way they can adequately provide for their' own security. is through the development of nu clear weapons. Similarly, Japan will have to reconsider an:&hor mOilS militarization program if they feel the United States is withdrawing from the region Or as an option, they may pursue neutrality or make some accommodation with the Soviet Union 11. Despite their public statements, the PRC similarly may react badly to the lack of.American resolve in Korea This would add more compelling evidence that an accommodation with.

Russia may be the most prudent thing to do ,now.rather.than.wait for an inevitable encirclement that the U.S will' not be able to prevent 12. Korea has the largest and one of the most powerful armies in the free world aside fro m the United States. With 50,000 troops stationed in Viet Nam and over 1,000 fatalities they feel they demonstrated their broad:.-view:of defending the non-communist world. The Koreans do not feel that the U.

S. is doing them a favor by stationing troops in their country, but instead they kiave made the major sacrifices for the benefit of the U.S in holding the strategic defense line in Northeast Asia.

Only Korea remains in the entire East Asia region as a powerful military ally of the United States. A lo ss of Korea may mean the collapse of any future role of the United States in the en tire region. -4 I. Emergence of the Withdrawal Policy For the last several years, proposed amendments to Defense Department bills have been proposed in the Congress that w o uld reduce the number of American military personnel assigned to the Republic of Korea (ROK Each year these proposals have been voted down by substantial margins. Only with the pledge by candidate Carter to withdraw forces from Korea and his sub sequent e lection to the Presidency did the proposal generate serious discussion.

Apparently Go Carter~~~de~c~ided. as e.arly.,.as.;$a%uary l';9+B->t$at all American forces should be withdrawn from Korea. He only later exempted the. IAirr-.'Force but. remained wedde d 'to :a basic naval proposition opposing'static ground positions in exposed areas.

In his meetings with the Japanese two weeks after the inaugu ration, Vice President Mondale asserted that the withdrawal policy had already been decided upon himself did n ot specifically refer to the subject until he casually mentioned it in his March 9, 1977, news conference in response to a question My commitment to withdraw American ground troops from Korea has not changed I' He estimated that In order 'ko carry :it out , a four or five year time period is appropriate schedule for withdrawal of American ground troops would have to be worked out very carefully with the South Korean government After the news conference, the President met with the Foreign Minister from the R e puhlic of Korea and informed him of this policy decision fected by this policy, they should have been consulted before any announcement But President Carter At that time, he stated the following: the The Koreansfelt that as the ally vitally' ef Some have c ontended that the actual tape of the news con ference indicates the President%aid that a "full five year time period" would be involved, but most commentators and apparently the Administration, have accepted the "four to five" year interpretation. -5 Amer i can military and embassy officials have expressed similar concerns. In testifying before a Congressional committee after his removal from his position in Korea, General Singlaub com plained that the Korean command was "never asked to comment on the desira b ility of the withdrawal" and thus "we were being asked the wrong questions" by the Administration. Others have con tended that the Presidentcorisixlted neither the State Department the Korean government,noreven the Joint Chiefs of Staff before deciding on the policy change. Even if the Joint Chiefs did con fer with the President, they apparently did not relay the strong dissent from such a policy change by the Korean military command.

Similarly, the President proceeded with this major new policy declaration without first consulting with Congress.

Only after the recall of General Singlaub did much of an elabora- I tion of policy on Korea emerge. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General George Brownrand Philip C. Habib of the State Department went to Korea to consult with the Korean government but only after the policy had been decided upon. Even then, the I initial announcement about the withdrawal of 6,000 troops by the end of 1978 leaked from Japanese sources on the return trip to the United Sta tes rather than any joint announcement by the United States and Korean governments.

Thus, the whole procedure of announcing the withdrawal'of forces from Korea has generated far more anxiety in East Asia khan the policy might have caused:otherwise Back in 1971, when only the 7th Division was withdrawn, the United States initially consulted with the Koreans before any announcement and then accompanied the wi-thdrawal with a concrete proposal to modernize South Korean mil-L 5C&y forces with a $1.5 billion gr a nt assistance program. Even before the withdrawal revelation, the South Koreans had already been quite uneasy about the Carter Administration because of not being consulted earlier when. the. Unite.d States responded:'.to .ever tures fr0in""P;'yongyang to Pr&s.iden,tklecf Carter ;,to. visit North Korea i Thus, the withdrawal announcement confirmed the previous skepticism concerning the diplomacy of the new administration, and even be fore any substantive changes took place, the government of the Republic o f Korea felt they sustained unnecessary damage to their prestige due to the actions of their closest ally 11. Military Situation on the Korean Peninsula For the past 23 years, peace and stability have existed on the Korean peninsula. The American forces, w ith their enormous -6 C firepower, have i-gaintained, t.jie militar baiancz'=setween-.the forces deployed north' and south of the 38th' pgrzliel.

American forces fulfill a complicated threefdla'-i'purpose in Korea: supplement and support allied ROK forces to discourage attacks by the People's Republic of Korea ppx restrain ROK forces from possibly. pverr.eacting';to?:PkK provocations and launch ing a general attack themselves, and form an integral role in the United Nations Command structure The Over the years, the American military program in Korea was never specifically designed to transfer all on-the-ground military functions to the South Koreans . Thus, specific programs to arm the South Koreans have always excluded either major weapons sys tems or substantial air power. Only with the withdrawal of the Seventh Division in 1971 did some discussion occur of the possible removal of all American troop s. But the withdrawal of 20,000 men at that time merely reduced the size of forces and did not alter the fundamental role of American infantry forces in contributing to the protection of the main invasion corridor to Seoul.

With the withdrawal of these for ces, the United States initiated the five-year Korean modernization program. This program, de signed to somewhat offset the withdrawal of American forces, never fulfiEled its promise. Initially, the United States pledged to provide $1.5-billion in grant m i litary assistance, or about 300 mii-lion per year-"over..a fi've-year- period recei:yed priority attention for- equ~prne.6E But due -.to' the exigencies of the Vietna-j wkeL the program :suf.ferg:d-"endlesS. de,lays. as- 'the :war 4 Moreover, the Koreans l ater complained that the costs of equipment should have been established at 1971 prices. Instead, inflated costs of equipment substantially reduced the amount of material and only $1 billion of grant aid was actually extended with the Koreans obtaining an other 5 billion in foreign military sales financed by 8 percent loans. Rather than substantially modern izing the ROK forces, the program ultimately lq-ft a-wider jap between the forces north and south of the 38th parallel.

Apparently, the initial announce ment to withdraw American forces in 1971 encouraged the North Korean leader, Kim 11 Sung to engage in his own military improvement program. The withdrawal signaled to Kim a weakening of American resolve in Korea. Thus, the North Koreans engaged in a massi ve buildup of their own forces. Only recently has intelligence substantiated the scope of the North 1977, the disparity in the military power between the two sides is much larger than in 1971. t Korean buildtipj in the five years from 1971 to 19

76. Thus, in -7 From 1973 to 1976, the PRK more than doubled their number of submarines.,.tanks, and helicopter assets. Field artillery increased by 50 percent, amphibious warfare craft rose four fold, and armored personnel carriers and transport aircraft for parat r oop insertion both increased substantially these material increases in forces, the North Koreans also created a large command-style unconventional warfare force, con structed new naval bases and airfields in forward areas, rede ployed armored equipment cl o ser to the DMZ, built concrete re inforcements for artillery positions close to the DMZ, reinforced air defenses, and constructed underground protection shelters for much of their air and naval forces. In general, Kim I1 Sung took a wide range of actions a ll out of proportion and design for any merely defensive purposes Besides The American military leader in Korea, General Vessey, posed the simple question: "One has to ask oneself: Why this build-up The result of these efforts has led to a growing dispari ty be tw-n'the equipment of the two sides joys advantages over the ROK-:of two to one in naval combatants artillery and combat aircraft, and two and one-half to one in armor.

The following chart indicates the balance-between the two Korean forces and the s ize of the American-contingent Thus, by 1977, the Pm-'en North Korea S,auth United States a I Korea Troops 495,000 625,000 Warplanes 655 216 Ships 450 174 Tanks 1,950 l 000 41,000 65 54 45 to 50 in 7th Fleet While revealing in many respects,this chart is a lso somewhat mis leading because of the categories of weapons and their deployment. Despite the recent introduction of some modern equipment, the ROK still lags substantially behind the PRK in the capabilities of their tank force, aircraft, and armor. Mor e over, the PRK has 12 submarines to interdict the vital sea lanes of the ROK while their own supply routes from Russia and China come over..land to cope effectively with both South 'Kor-ea-n'a-nd potential American aerial attacks, the North Koreans hav'e-i n stalled the best anti aircraft installations in the Communist world outside of the Soviet Union In order -8 The South Koreans lead the North only in general manpower strength of their forces and have a somewhat larger reserve capability to draw from. Howe ver, by all analysis any new out break of war would be decided by the amount of firepower both sides can muster early in the conflict and thus the number of personnel in uniform would be a very small factor in the ulti mate outcome.

In order to help offset the disparity between the two Korean forces, the united States has maintained both air and infantry forces in South Korea. Although the American Second Division of 14,000 men comprises only 5 percent of the total strength ar rayed along the DMZ, they hav e far more conventional firepower land andair mobility and anti-tank capabilities than several Korean divisions-combined. Moreover, the American forces, air and infantry combihed, have access to an estimated 640 tactical nuclear weapons. These weapons cons t itute one of the key stra tegic elements on the side of the South Koreans that dissuades Kim I1 Sung from launching another invasion. Presumably, the removal of American ground forces would also mean the remova-1 of part Of this element of uncertainty in a ny North Korean calxulations Aware of the enormous gap between their own military equipment and that of their potential adversaries, the ROK had inaugurated a Force Improvement Program which was projected to entail a cost material would not arrive until l a ter. Overall, since the US Congress ended grant aid to Korea, the Seoul government has sub stantially increased-their own military spending, doubling it in recent years from $700 million to $1.4 billion. In 1970, the ROK devoted 4 percent of their GNP and 23.9 percent of their total government budget to defense. By 1976, these figures rose to 6;.1 percent and 32.7 percent and will rise further by 1981 to 6.6 percent and 34.3 percent. This effort considerably dwarfs that of almost any country in the-non-com m unist world military outlays by the ROK wo-uld invariably undermine their economic development program that provides the resources to SUS tain these projected levels of defense spending of over 5 billion by the early 1980's, although much of the Any large r However, this new defensive effort was not designed to overtake the lead held by the PRK. In fact, even with the projected in creases in material, the ROK would still be trailing the PRK in many critical areas. Moreover, since the inauguration of this pr o gram preceded any change of American troop deployment, the ROK never had the intention of replacing American equipment. -9 Therefore, the ROK fears that without massive new loans from the United States, possibly involving as much as $15 billion over the n ext five years, the gap between the two military forces in the field would constitute an invitation to ag gression by Kim I1 Sung when the last American ground forces withdraw.

This estimated amount of required loans considerably surpasses the current requ est by the Carter Administration before Congress forS250 million in military credits for FY 1978 and an additional lo0 million in sales of arms. Thus the government of Seoul together with the American military personnel working with them remain very skept i cal of the prospective success of any Koreani zation program military assistance and that in the future there will be an in creasingly less likely American response to a renewal of hostilities. As in Vietnam, withdrawal may become tantamount to abandonmen t in a future crisis when material support must sup plement verbal pledges.

However the existence of a Mutual Security Treaty and continued operation-of air bases in Korea remain distinguishing character istics between the residual American commitments to Vietnam and Korea. But, given the scope of the general de-escalation.of presence in East Asia, the question has invariably arisen as to just how the United States could project strength in order to rapidly reinforce a besieged Korea. Administration offici a ls have referred to possible alternative defense dispositions in the Pacific region They fear that they will receive inadequate However, such locations are increasingly difficult to imagine Negotiations for a probable reduction of forces in the Philippine s have already begun, and a complete phaseout of the air bases in Taiwan appears likely. All bases in Thailand have already closed.

A change of parties in power in the nextelection in Japan could lead to the expulsion of all American forces stationed there aside from the 7th Fledt, which has fewer and fewer resupply ports the United States may have to resort to Guam and Wake Island as the nearest reliable support facilities in the years ahead. This pros gect does not augur well for convincing either North or South Korea of the American determination to maintain her commitments Thus 1

11. United Nations Command Structure The Military Armistice Agreement sggned at Panmunjom on July 27 1953, forms the basis of the continuation of peace .in Korea. At that time, General Mark Clark acted as

omman~e-r! of Goth g ,he Uni-ted Nations forces and their American component. Since then,-the American military commander has continued to function in this dual role; General Vessey presently commands both the 8th Army 10 inc luding the Second Infantry Division, and the United Nations forces. Any change in the presence of American ground forces in Korea necessarily entails a reevaluation of the UN Command function.

This command structure includes not only the United States for ces and other token United Nations elements, but also the entire South Korean military force, except for the units stationed in Seoul. This arrangement derives from both the Armistice Agree ment and the need for a single unified command structure. Since t echnically the United Nations Commander signed the armistice agreement with the representatives of North Korea and the Peoples Republic of China, he has the responsiblity for maintaining the peace. Thus, the Americans, rather than the South Koreans, have met periodically with North Korean representatives at Panmunjom arising along the DMZ. Through this mechanism of mediation, the actual forces of the South and North Koreans have been effectively separated from a direct clash.

In 1971, when the united State s removed ZO,UOU ground rorces, the Republic of Korea agreed to permit continued American operational control over their armed forces. But at the same time, the United States pledged that any further significant reduction in forces would lead to a :_ie-ex amination of the entire command structure.

Now with the proposals to remove all American ground forces, the I I Koreans want to discuss whether and when they will assume opera tional control over the United Nations Command, assuming it siirvives.

Quite understandably, without any signficant military forces in the field in Korea, the South Koreans do not feel that they should re main under the command of an American general. Thus, coincident to any American force withdrawal the entire united Nation s Command structure must be reexamined or, quite possibly, abolished, as the North Koreans have proposed before the General Assembly See below p 12 This has caused considerable anxiety among both American and South Korean,military personnel in Korea. The r e moval of the mediating force of the United Nations Command would considerably increase tensions along the DMZ. The ax murders of two Americans on August 18, 1976, quite conceivably did not escalate into a re prisal assault by South Koreans due to the acti o ns of the UN Command. A rage for retaliation swept South Korea, but since command functions did not rest with Korean leadership, they could successfully divert responsibilities to the American commander 11 In this manner, the UN..Corynand structure has co n tributed sub stantially to the maintenance.'.of peace in the area for the past 23 years by preventing any direct confrontations from the sharply antagonistic forces of the two Koreas. Incidents along the DMZ could much more easily escalate into major vio lence and confrontations if the UN Command structure is removed.

Precisely because of this likelihood, the United States has con sistently opposed proposals in the United Nations over the years by the Communist bloc countries to abolish the Command and at tempt to force the American military presence out of the area.

Finally, the technical question has been raised as to whether the South Koreans have a legal obligation to abide by the terms of the armistice agreement of 1953 the agreement, but instead only indirectly assent to it as part of the United Nations Command forces. The Nor.th Koreans refused to allow them.to either be a party to this agreement or participate in any other substantive discussions at Panmunjoq over the past 23 years government and h a s consistently opposed dual entry into the United Nations or any other actions that would shed tacit legitimacy on The South Korans quite likei.2+will feel that the maintenance of peace serves their long-range.-hterests but whether the actual armistice ca n continue depends upon good will between North and South Korea that has not been demonstrated previously.

IV North Korean South Korean Confrontation: Red Cross As a government they never signed The North refuses to recognize them as a legitimate the government in Seo.ul.

Talks and U N. Debates.

Any proposal that eliminates the presence of American ground forces in Korea probably also removes a buffer between the North and South Korean forces. Therefore, one should examine the results of previous contacts between these two forces in order to assess and anticipate future developments The only d.gnLficant direct contact between the ROK and PRK took place in a'series of meetings beginning in September 1971 under the general auspices of the Red Cross. The ini t ial meetings led to the issuance of a join communique on July 4 19721,and the creation of the South North Coordinating Committee to implement the agreements and solve various problems including unification." But the subsequent discussions rapidly deterior a ted as unbridgeable gulfs developed between the two parties. The disputes between the two Korean sides spilled over into the United Nations General Assembly in November, 1975, and have re mained stal.ermted since that. time. The arguments presented in the s e confrontations deserve additional scrutiny in the context of the withdrawal proposal c 12 The talks began when the Pre:'sident of the ROK Red Cross Society proposed in August 1971, that non-political, humani tarian negotiations take place in order to re unite an esti mated ten million family members separated since the conclu sion of the war in 19

53. Several meetings with a much broader range of discussions followed in Seoul, Pyongyang and Panmunjom that resulted in a three-point communique signed on Jul y 4, 1972 which provided that 1 Unification should be achieved through independent Korean efforts without external interference 2 Unification should come only through peaceful means 3 National unity should be sought which transcended ideas, ideologies, an d systems.

Pledges of "exchange in many fields", and the'installation of a hotline between the two capit-1s also emerged from the talks.

This effort at normalization of relations between the two countries ended quickly, however, as the North Koreans intro duced broad non negotiable principles into all subsequent discussions. Rather than acced-ihcj- to the ROK request-to proceed with humanitarian measures, such as the reunion of families,-the North Koreans de manded that the Park government abrogate 'its an ti-Communist and National Security laws and proceed directly with re-unifica tion discussions.

The ROK continuously asserted the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of each country as a necessary premise for any discussions.

In subsequen t talks, the ROK continued to urge that the two sides proceed with settlement of easier problems such as economic and unilateral exchanges, butPyoagyafg issued broad demands for the withdrawal of all foreign troops i.e., Americans and the termi nation Of. ' -the importation of all war supplies into the Korean Peninsula. In later discussions, the PRK focused their attacks upon the expulsion of the American "imperialist a-ggressors from Korean soil, knowing that this would substantially turn the mili tary bala nce in their favor.

The North Koreans pressed the same set of issues in Novembel; 1976 before the United Nations General Assembly resolution which demanded the termination of American jurisdic-l tion over the UN command asking Why should the United States Army continue to enjoy the signboard of the UN forces They demanded the abolition of both the UN Commission for the Unifi cation and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK) and the entire UN Command in Korea The PRK 'sU'pp6r.ted- a 13 The supporters of the ROK ( e specially the-"b.S and 'Britain) proposed another resolution which wklcome&T 'the North-South dialogue as a possible substitute for the UNCURK, urged dual Korean membership in the UN as.a m,?ans of promoting security and peaceful unification, and onT?ihi% x the. UN Com mand under the auspices of the Security Council.

A formula worked 6~ by Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger avoided a showdown vote in the General Assembly. Instead, the UN tacitly endorsed the military status quo in Korea, called for continued dialogue and abolished UNCURK.

Nearly one year later, the Korea issue again came before the General Assembly. The ROK supporters urged full implementation of the proposal accepted a year earlier and mentioned that foreign troops and the UN Command should only be withdrawn when-"new arrangements for maintaining the Ar m istice Agreement il w>r&..wOq.ked out. In contrast Pyo,ngyang,%z supp6.rke:rE idei$$nded;-.n4't onx$,t'hat the UN Command be abolished-and foreign..troops be withdrawn, but also that "real parties" to subsequent negotiations specifically exclude the ROK. T he United Nations General Assembly adopted these conflicting draft resolutions and has subsequently 2Zgriored -v them The withdrawal of American forces from Korea will undoubtedly en courage the PRK to bring the issue again before the UN. Since the Americ a n sponsored resolution in 1975 prevailed by only 8 votes the prospective abrogation of field support for the UN Command will probably cause the General Assembly to withdraw their juris diction from Korea. By having already .announced the withdrawal of for c es from Korea, the United States has reversed the previous position of negotiating an alternative arrangement for maintaining the armistice before ending support for the UN Command. a v Thus, the PRK will probably finally prevail in the UN and thereby pla c e the ROK under a serious defensive diplomatic position in the world. Until this move, the North Koreans had suffered-a series of serious reversals in their foreign policy objective with dis appointing support at the non-aligned conference in Sri Lanke in August, 1976 heir inability to fulfill financial obligations to creditors and the expulsion of their diplomats for several European countries for engaging 'in illegal transactions.

A statement by the ROK Foreign Minister, Kim Tyong-shik in July 1973, attr ibuted possible Korean detente to the presence of American forces 14 The continued U.S; 'military presence in Korea has been a vital element which has made the oUth-N55 dialogue and detente possible. Any severe diminution of the U.Si military presence in Korea would pull the rug from under Korea's policy of detente and dia logue with the north.

Thus, the withdrawal of American forces without any correlative arrangement to maintain the status quo in-Korea will precipitate an era of extreme uncertainty. Whi2 e-the ROK may desire some ac commodations reached during the withdrawai-period, the PRK now h no incentive to deal at present with the ROK, but instead onlyn-gws towait for one of their major demands to be met American withdrawal) and work to isolate the ROK in the world diplomatic community.

V. Korean View of Withdrawal ProDosal The Republic of Korea has consistently supported the continued presence of American forces in Korea.

They have felt that through their mutual security arrangement including groun d forces the peace has been maintained in their region for the past two decades just as American NATO forces in Europe have preserved the status quo in that area that they have provided valuable front-line support-for both the United States and Japan in.. NoFthe&st- Asia, the Koreans feel that a genuinely reciprocal beneficial relationship has existed.

Sending over 300,000 men to Vietnam and suffering over 1,000 fatalities, demonstrated clearly, they felt, their interest in supporting the United States in E ast Asia. They also point out that their own military forces constitute the largest in the free world outside the United States and despite Japan's economic strength, Korea remains the foremost power in the non-communist Orient Believing Given this percep t ion of their American relationship, they have never satisfactorily understood the motivation behind the pro posed troop withdrawals from their country. Given the military buildu in North Korea and the growing rift between Russia and China, they conclude t h at American interest would be better served by a larger, rather than a smaller presence in the region. As one prominant Korean stated If we had our way, the United States would bring in an additional two divisions variably feel that the withdrawal emerges from the residue of the Vietnam conflict politicians in Washington scrambled to--;avo-id Instead they in 15 the last war. Witnessing the Vietnam scenario, Koreans won der ominously whether the departure of American ground troops from Korea will only prece de the kind of diminshed military support that plagued America's former allies in Vietnam.

The pledge of continued L'lmerican presence through the lm-ainte;nF rice of air bases and possible naval support has not assuaged their doubts. As someone commented, "Warplanes are like geese they can honk and fly away." The infantry forces have always represented the touchstone of American resolve in Korea and con sequently no verbal assurances can blunt the simple fact that Americans will no longer be placing their own lives in the likely path of a North Korean advance do.wn the Ui jongbu Corridor.

Naturally, Korean officials have.notvoiced their concern in public for fear of causing some panic:&mongIboth.ltheir own people and foreign investors who provide the criti cal financial backbone to the growing Korean economy. President Park stated quite tersely I am confident that our ground troops can smash'the invasion of the North Korean Communists if only we are provided with adequate air, naval, ana iogistic supporc Pr e viously, the Koreans took the position that preceding any American or United Nations withdrawal, a noh.Laggre-S+i-on- pXCt with the North Koreans should be concluded Through this agree ment, they hoped to change basic attitudes in Pyongyang from con quest of the south to rec6gnition. At the same time, they wanted I mutually agreed upon third-party oversight teams to mediate dis putes and inspect any incidents along the border, i.e replace the United Nations Command. But the major leverage for obtain ing th is new framework vanishes with the American ground forces.

Rather than extracting any possible concessions or assurances they feel the Americans have unilaterally squandered their posi tion in Korea and can only encourage continued intransigence by Kim 11 Sung.

Thus, the Koreans, and to some extent, the remaining Americans in Korea, feel that they now must try to make the best of an un fortunate, ill-considered decision. But until the troops actu7 ally begin departing, they still hope, along with American military leaders, as exemplified by General Singlaub, that the entire decision can be reconsidered. Barring such a reconsidera tion, they fear that they will either receive inadequate mili tary support to offset the loss of American forces or, more import a ntly, that no amount of equipment will deter another in vasion attempt by Kim I1 Sung after American ground forces have departed 16 7- 5 a Their skepticlsm'about American resolve resides in their in timate involvement in the unravelling of support in Indo c hina compounded with the apparent fixation in Congress with ques tions of human rights and charges of bribery human rights, they feel many Americans fail to perceive that no peace treaty ever ended the war; and, thus, they continue to live in a precarious military-political environment. Moreover the entire human rights iSsFnarrowly focuses on a very limited range of rights respected only in the advanced Western demo cratic systems be left alone by the government of religion, movement, employment, and the w h ole range of social actions involving family and community relationship proceed un hindered in the ROK On the issue of It ignores the most basic rights of people to In contrast to the PRK, freedom Finally, the withdrawal proposal has engendered an unprece d ented unity among all the people in South Korea. Even the most vigor ous dissenters fromthe government of President Park have united in opposition to the proposed withdrawal policy 500 Christians, many of them government critics, held a prayer meeting in S eoul urging a change in policy by Washington. The leader of the gro.up, Reverend Kim Kwan Suk, Secretary General of the Korean National Council of Churches, said We trie-d to ex press -6ur"'misgivings and uneasiness about the troop withdrawal If it's poss i ble r we would like to reverse the decision." The group fears the threat to their own security..an their coun try, asp:well as the prospective imposition of stern"new govern ment measures f.a crisis develops On May 22, 1977 The author has examined this is s ue extensively in an essay on "Human Rights and Democracy in North and South Korea Korea in the World Today (Council on American Affairs, 1976.) VI Withdrawal Policy: Implementation a.nd Impl-ications Thus far the withdrawal program presumably will commen c e with the removal of one brigade of the First Infantry Division (about 6,000 men iri:ehe- :E&rst'-y5ar,.s After this, additional ground forces will be- wlthdrawn' on-an incremental basis over the fol lowing four years would either accelerate, slow down, o r indefinitely postpone the program but all factors that could or should interrelate to that basic decision have been left vague either deliberately or through oversight A brief summary follows which lists various options and considerations that should be weighed and evaluated in the implementation of any withdrawal of American forces No conditions have been established that In short a commitment has been made to withdraw forces 1. The United States must make clear a determination to remain committed to th e . defense of the Republic of Korea. This is no,t.-'on r.uc~al-i to the continued I viability of .the Korean er~en but even :m SO is necessary to discourage a renewal of warfare launched by Kim I1 Sung. Thus far, no formula of substantive alternative Ameri c an support for the ROKYhas emerged and consequently, various scenarios for the renewal of warfare have invariably arisen 2. A massive program of military assistance, even if in the forms of long-term low interest loans, coupled with an augmentation of-Ame r ican air support, may be able to adequately compensate for the material and psychological loss of American forces from Korea. Only if such proposals are inextricably tied to a timetable of withdrawal does it appear that such a program would receive themee e ssary support of the American Congress-and be fulfilled coincident with actual withdrawals. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office has already estimated that the cost of posting the Second Division in the United States will actually run $150 million mo re over a five-year period thanllkeeping them 2- in Korea. Thus, the removal of forces becomesliIa

fg2G pensive proposition beyond additional material for the ROK 3. Without compensating support from the United States outlined above, the ROK would be force d to attempt to maximize their own security by whatever devices 0 possible. The country would be compelled to move 18 much closer to a wartime basis of operation with much tighter restrictions upon the society to pre vent any internal instability or demor a lization The social sectors of the economy would be com pelled to make additional sacrifices to the growth of defense industries. Additional support from the other countries, particularly Japan, would be solicited by the ROK. Although Japan could not prov i de military assistance, she could extend eco nomic assistance that would allow the ROK to de vote additional resources to the military sector 4. The withdrawal proposal itself could be tied to a general formula for the creation of an.alternative framework for peace in Northeast Asia. Initially President Carter apparently considered this option but later rejected it assent of the Soviet Union, China, Japan, and both North and South Korea. Assuming that the United Nations Command would likely be abolished, s o me other modality of settling disputes would have to be created or the likelihood of war would sub stantially increase regardless of the nature of the military balance. But given the initial an nouncement of withdrawal without any 'reciprocal actions by o t her countries and the past positions taken by North Korea, this problem now appears the most difficult to resolve satisfactorily At present the United States has no available alternative defense posture in East Asia that can compensate for the withdrawal o f forces from Korea. Thus, the actual withdrawal of. forces will invariably be perceived as another step away from America's interest and commitment in the re gion. In Japan, 235 members of the two major political parties recently co-sponsored a decla rat i on that a withdrawal would constitute "an invitation to instability in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as a whole Moreover, there will be repercussions felt by the 230 million people in non-Communist Southeast Asia as well This would require the W ith the de-emphasis of military forces in Korea, the remaining American bases in the Philippines, Japan, and Taiwan would increase in importance.

The action, therefore, strengthens the hand of .President MaFcOs. in his negotiations with the United States f or bases at Clark and Subic Bay. Similarly, any further reduction of the air bases in Taiwan would leave the American position in Northeast Asia precariously relying upon the vicissitudes of Japanese elections 6. The perception of the American withdrawal f rom Asia at the time of growing Soviet power and in terest in the area may force all the countries there to reassess their roles in East-West re lations. The traditional allies of the United States, especially Japan and Taiwan, may feel compelled to make some accommodations-with the.

Soviet Union rather than rely upon vanishing American strength for their future security Also the People's Republic of China may reeval,uate their own developing relations with the United States as they increa singly feel the pressures of impending Soviet encirclement VII. Conclusion The enormous number and range of problems associated with any American withdrawal of ground forces haue:-led most experts on Korea to call for a basic reexamination of the proposal itself.

Rather than'saving any money as initially believed, the redeploy ment of forces stationed in Korea will engender enormous ex penses either directly or indirectly. Even if a maximum effort is made to compensate the South Koreans for the loss of Ame rican forces in the area, it appears that no adequate substitute exists that will not pose grave risks of another war in Korea More broadly, adverse repercussions will probably be felt througk out the entire East Asian area as the move is perceived as a p a rt of a more general withdrawal from the area beginning with the collapse of Indochina in 1975 At the time of victory of the North Vietnamese army in 1975, Kim I1 Sung apparently sought support for intensifying his own libera tion war in Korea in visits t o Peking and other communist capitols.

But American steadfastness and the desire for stability by other powers in the area prevailed and peace..and stability remained in the region. However, the new withdrawal proposal has once again brought uncertainty to the area and is creating a crisis where none has existed for nearly a quarter century.

By Jeffrey B. Gayner Policy Analyst


Jeffrey B.

Senior Associate Fellow