February 26, 2007
Written by C.N.
The issues and controversies surrounding the presence of the U.S. military in South Korea have been well-documented by now — nationalist autonomy, incidents of U.S. military raping South Korean women, the U.S. accused of provoking North Korea, etc. With these issues in mind and in the context of the U.S.’s deepening war on terrorism, we now have news that the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to turn control over South Korea’ military back to the South Koreans by 2012:
The agreement ends a 50-year pact that gave the US wartime command of South Korea’s army, dating to the Korean War. Under pressure in Iraq, the US had wanted to hand over in 2009. But South Korea pushed for a slower transition. The US currently has 29,500 troops on the Korean peninsula and Seoul’s military numbers 680,000. North Korea has more than one million troops. . . .
The US has reduced its troop numbers in South Korea by 10,000, down from 40,000 when US President George W. Bush came to power. It plans to further reduce this number to 25,000 by 2008. . . . South Korea ceded control of its military to a US-led UN force during the Korean War, which ended with a ceasefire in 1953. It was given peacetime command of its forces in 1994 but the US would still take over should war break out on the peninsula.
It’s interesting to note that it was actually the South Koreans who wanted the U.S. to retain control longer than the U.S. wanted to. I suppose that just goes to show that despite South Korea’s official “Sunshine Policy” of reconciliation towards North Korea, deep down it still fears that their northern neighbors are capable of losing it at any time and attacking South Korea at a moment’s notice.
I’m not an international military policy expert, but my impression is that in the end, all other things staying the same, this transfer of power and reduction in U.S. forces in South Korea are likely to lead to an easing of tensions with North Korea, as well as a big step toward satisfying South Koreans who are resentful of the U.S.’s presence in their country, so I see this as a positive development. But knowing Kim Jong Il’s instability, anything can happen between now and 2012 . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "US to Cede Control of Military to Korea" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/02/us-to-cede-control-of-military-to-korea/> ().
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