The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow argues for the U.S. to pull out of South Korea:
Washington needs to reflect first on why the North is such a problem for America. A small, impoverished, and distant state, even with a handful of nuclear weapons (but no delivery capacity), obviously is no match for the globe’s superpower. Ordinarily the former wouldn’t be interested in the latter.
But the U.S. maintains a defense treaty with and garrison in the ROK, routinely deploys naval and air units around the DPRK, regularly conducts military exercises in the South, and constantly threatens war against the North. Pyongyang can’t very well ignore America.
Thus, going home should be the foundation of U.S. policy toward the Koreas.
…Washington should loosen military ties with South Korea and extricate itself from a potential Korean conflict. The U.S. should terminate the “mutual” defense treaty, withdraw the permanent garrison, and end the periodic threats.
Chances are slim to nil that the U.S. will actually pull out of South Korea and stop subsidizing its security from the North. Primarily, this is because, as I wrote at Al Jazeera America earlier this year, “the U.S. military presence in South Korea is not about deterring North Korea. More accurately, it is about maintaining U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.”
In other words, containing China:
Ironically, the U.S.’s continued military presence and defense treaty with South Korea does nothing to weaken Pyongyang. Instead, it engenders geopolitical calculations on the part of regional great powers like China to prop up the North Korean regime.
…To Beijing, Pyongyang is something of a nuisance — a perpetually erratic regime with a hellish human rights record that is a constant source of aggravation to China, which is trying to avoid such negative attention from the international community.
China nevertheless endures this embarrassment and continues to safeguard the survival of the North Korean regime because it “is important to Beijing as a bulwark against U.S. military dominance of the region,” according [a 2013 Council on Foreign Relations report].
China’s reluctant support of the DPRK has allowed the latter to maintain its survival and slowly increase its nuclear capabilities. But China, like other nuclear weapons states, despises proliferation, even among its allies, because it diminishes the power and freedom of movement enjoyed by the exclusive club of nuclear powers. In all likelihood, China would halt its lenient backing of the DPRK if the risk of U.S. troops right on China’s border wasn’t in the cards.
As Bandow puts it, “Withdrawal also would reduce Beijing’s perception that the U.S. is seeking to contain China in cooperation with the ROK.”
As per usual, U.S. interventionism makes things less stable, in addition to serving as a dangerously wasteful sink-hole for U.S. resources.