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Saturday, March 08, 2003
Via the indispensable Moira:

From the NY Times (neither an unbiased source nor my favorite newspaper):

SEOUL, South Korea, March 7 - Officials here said today that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had ignored them in suggesting realignment of American forces in Korea and demanded that they stay where they are at least until resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.

I read that as, "Hey, wait a minute. We know that we ran on a platform of reconciliation with the North. We know that we opposed you and complained when you cut off North Korea's oil supplies when they announced that they had violated the Clinton negotiated nuclear deal. We know that there have been large (government sponsored?) demonstrations demanding that you leave. We know that we have prevented you from doing anything to protect your troops from nuclear attack from the North. But for Christ's sake, you stupid Americans, that doesn't we don't want American bodies standing between us and the North!"

South Korea's newly installed defense minister, Cho Young Kil, said Washington "has never officially informed us of the movement of U.S. troops" and "the withdrawal issue was never raised by the U.S. government."

My guess would be that its being raised now. Rather bluntly, too. They are, in fact, fortunate that they have not been informed "officially." Otherwise it would be too late.

Indeed, said Mr. Cho, talking to members of South Korea's fractious National Assembly, American and South Korean officials "will not discuss any possibility of movement of U.S. troops before the nuclear issue is resolved."

Hmmm. They won't even discuss movement of our troops. So naturally the troops must stay. Question: Who died and left them in charge of this equal relationship?

The demand for American troops to stay comes as a shock to United States officials, who had assumed they were responding to commonly held Korean thinking by pushing ahead with plans for shifting the American military posture.

A veritable Casablanca moment.

Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Renault: Oh. Thank you very much.

The South Korean response appeared to represent a swing of the pendulum away from suggestions in recent months that the United States scale back its forces and reconsider basic defense arrangements.

Gee, ya think?

South Koreans have not altered their pleas for a "more mature, equal partnership," as demanded by President Roh, but are turning that demand into another reason for the United States to keep all 37,000 troops in Korea, the majority between here and the North Korean frontier.
"We agree it's a critical issue," said Song Young Gil, a National Assembly member from Mr. Roh's Millennium Democratic Party. "After the nuclear crisis is solved, at that time we will consult on this problem."
Mr. Song shared a view, increasingly heard here, that any American proposal to move troops from near the line with North Korea may mean that the United States intends to attack North Korean nuclear facilities against the wishes of the South Korean government. The logic behind this thinking is that the United States would want its troops out of harm's way in case North Korean ground forces retaliated by striking across the demilitarized zone.

Let me get this straight. North Korea has a program, now announced to the world, to develop nuclear weapons. It either now has such weapons or will shortly have them. It has the means to deliver them via ballistic missile and (I suppose) other means to at least South Korea and Japan. Who in that area do you think North Korea would most like to attack? You get three guesses and the first two don't count. South Korea is doing its level best to prevent us from doing anything at all to avert the possiblity of nuclear attack on our troops. And now they are concerned that we are concerned with the well being of our troops?

"American troops are something like hostages to attack by North Korea," said Mr. Song. "Maybe this kind of action means some kind of signal for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea."

He actually called our troops hostages. Does this man have a clue? In the middle of a war on terror in which the enemy frequently takes and murders hostages, he declares that 37,000 Americans are to be treated as hostages. This is political tone deafness on an enormous scale. I hope that's a translation problem.

Stupid remarks aside, if we leave, two things could happen. First, the North could attack south without involving US troops (at least without automatically involving them). Of course, that is why the troops are where they are: so that the North cannot attack south without automatically involving us. Thirty seven thousand troops are not meant to defend the South. They are meant to act as a tripwire. An attack on our troops will serve as the reason for US retaliation against the North, thereby raising the cost imposed on the North for such an attack and hopefully preventing the attack in the first place. This strategy has been successful for fifty years. Second, the US would no longer have "hostages" in theatre. Freeing our "hostages" would significantly reduce the cost to us (and only to us) of a number of options, including bombing raids on the North's nuclear reactors. That option is not unavailable with the troops in place, but it does involve a significantly higher price in American blood (as opposed to Korean blood) than it would if the troops had been moved or withdrawn. This is the same ploy as the Franco-German attempt to pervert NATO into a means of restraining the US, as opposed to the mutual defense arrangement that it was intended to be. That ploy damaged and may have destroyed NATO. It will have precisely the same effect in South Korea. Is that what Mr. Song wants?

In any case, "We ask Secretary Rumsfeld, do not withdraw American troops at this time," said Mr. Song. "If the alliance is equal, Americans should heed the voice of the Korean government."

At this time. In other words, "We think you should keep your troops where they are until we get what we want. Then you can please leave. There's no hurry. Here's your hat. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Oh, and by the way, "equal" means we are in charge."

Having vented (at length) I must say that this is an extremely dangerous gambit undertaken by the US in response to an extremely irresponsible series of actions and demands by South Korea. I think the US made the announcements precisely for the purpose of eliciting the "we really want you to stay" reaction that they got. However, the announcements could easily be misconstrued by the North as meaning that the US is no longer willing to expose its troops to nuclear bombardment to protect the South, thus encouraging the North to become even more belligerent than it now is.

Can you say "April Glaspie"?

Sure you can.
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