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U.S.-South Korea Alliance Is Unhealthy for Both Countries

January 31, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, worries proliferated
both in the United States and its alliance partners that Donald
Trump’s election would signal the resurgence of American
“isolationism.” Trump’s statements certainly
indicated that some major changes in Washington’s alliance
policies would be forthcoming. His denunciations of the lack of burden sharing on the part of U.S.
allies in East Asia, Europe, and the Middle East often were quite
pointed. Although most of his complaints were directed against NATO
members, Japan, and other allies, they also applied to South
Korea.

Fears that a Trump administration would repudiate
America’s security alliances proved to be overblown. The new
president and his advisors quickly made statements confirming that
all of Washington’s commitments remained intact. The
president also sent Secretary of Defense James Mattis on a
“reassurance tour” to Japan and South Korea. Mattis
assured the South Koreans that the United States remained determined to protect their country, even as
the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North
Korea) continued to build its ballistic missile and nuclear-weapons
capabilities.

Nevertheless, the U.S.-South Korea alliance is in trouble
— and for reasons that go well beyond standard burden-sharing
controversies. The alliance no longer serves the best interests of
either country. Indeed, it has the perverse effect of increasing
dangers to both parties.

Washington should
reconsider whether perpetuating a Cold War-era alliance is worth
putting the United States on the front lines of crises that would
otherwise have only marginal relevance to America.

The accelerating pace of the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic
missile programs highlights the growing risk to America that
Washington’s security commitment to South Korea entails.
North Korea’s most recent nuclear test was much larger than
previous versions. Some experts even tend to believe
Pyongyang’s claim that it was a hydrogen bombrather than an atomic bomb
— which would be a major leap in capabilities. The
DPRK’s numerous missile tests over the past year likewise
suggest growing mastery of that technology. The progress has been
so pronounced that most experts conclude that North Korea now has
the ability to strike the U.S. west coast. Following the test in
late November, some experts speculate that Kim Jong-un’s
missiles can reach targets throughout the United States.

Those developments dramatically increase the risks associated
with Washington’s defense commitment to South Korea. It was
one thing to provide such protection when North Korea had no
nuclear capability and the range of its conventional weapons,
including missiles, was decidedly limited. It is quite another
consideration when the American homeland could be vulnerable. A
particularly odd feature of the periodic crises involving North
Korea is that the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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