Pull Out of South Korea

US Air Force conducting military exercises in South Korea. Credit: DoD
US Air Force conducting military exercises in South Korea. Credit: DoD

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.

14 thoughts on “Pull Out of South Korea”

  1. Here's my take. I've long thought that the only reason the North and South remain separate countries is because of US interference. They are the same people. If the US had not thrust itself into the conflict, the war would have been over in the early 1950's and the two sections would have eventually kissed and made up. This never ending standoff only benefits the US corporations. How is their situation much different from what happened in the US under the dictator Lincoln? If the Brits or the French had poked their noses in wouldn't that have prolonged the conflict and made the situation even worse?

  2. You are really an outsider if you say Lincoln is a dictator. Without the U.S. intervention, the North Korea would have defeated the South in 1950 and I would have been long dead in one of gulags the North Korea now has. They presently keep more than 200,000 people there who are treated like subhumans. The South Korea should have an alliance with a stronger nation. China cannot be because they are communist. Koreans hate Japanese, but they are the only stronger nation around if they had atomic weapons. So, nuclear-armed Japan and China would have to face off. Now do you think that is more stable east Asia without U.S. presence?

    1. I was incorrect to call Lincoln a dictator because the North still had a Congress. The word tyrant is probably more accurate. Even if it would have turned out badly for the South Koreans, it still should have been none of our business. Our post-WW2 growing Military Industrial Complex needed a new mission and the Korean conflict came in handy. I don't think that atom bomb lover Truman cared one bit about the fate of the Korean people. The discredited "domino theory" was the Big Lie used at the time, just as it was used in Vietnam. As for inmates in jail or gulags, no country has a greater percentage of its people locked up than the US.

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