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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  143753

Title:  "Panelists Divide Sharply on Korean Military Balance."

Article on Cato Institute conference. (900621)

Date:  19900621


06/21/90 *


(Article on Cato Institute conference) (790)

By Jim Shevis

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Panelists debating the military balance on the Korean peninsula at a June 21 Cato Institute conference divided sharply over the question of withdrawal of U.S. troops from there. The Cato Institute is a Washington- based public policy research foundation.

William J. Taylor, Jr., director of political-military studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, strongly disagreed with Cato's director of foreign policy studies, Ted Galen Carpenter, who had called for withdrawal.

"There's another side to this, and that is the view I share," Taylor said. "We have vital security interests in Asia and the Pacific, broadly defined, of which the Korean peninsula is a small but important point.

"There are still significant threats to our interests in Asia and the Pacific, specifically northeast Asia and, even more specifically, on the Korean peninsula."

Carpenter contended that the Republic of Korea (ROK) "is not and never has been a vital security interest of the United States. It does not warrant either the expense or the risk that the U.S. military commitment entails."

Carpenter said the direct cost of keeping 44,000 U.S. troops in South Korea is nearly 7,500 million dollars a year. Add to that the cost of air, naval and other ground forces that reinforce the troops and the total U.S. commitment to South Korea is 13,000 to 14,500 million dollars a year, he said.

"A nation with daunting problems of its own can ill afford to spend billions on the defense of a peripheral security interest," Carpenter said.

Taylor agreed that the United States has economic problems, "and we are going to have to reduce our defense spending by my estimate about 200,000 million dollars over a five-year defense program." But, he added:

"I do not agree with the cost figures we just heard that it takes to sustain U.S. forces in Korea. In fact, I think they're off by a factor of two. That bad."

GE 2 EPF408 With the lessening of cold-war tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Republic of Korea's strategic importance to the United States has faded, Carpenter said.

"With its massive internal economic and political problems, the Soviet Union is an unlikely candidate to embark on an expansionist binge in the Far East," he said.

"True, the Soviet Union still maintains sizable military forces in the region, but without some plausible motive for an expansionist drive, it cannot be said to pose a serious threat to U.S. interests."

Taylor was far more cautious about Soviet intentions.

"Despite the Soviets' rhetoric, their reductions do not get matched by performance in northeast Asia," he said. "The Soviet rhetoric is being matched in Europe but it hasn't happened in Asia.

"I think they will draw down significantly in northeast Asia and in the region. I think they will. I don't know they will.

"Until we're sure, we ought to keep our powder dry, especially in the context of the Korean peninsula."

Stephen D. Goose, legislative assistant for foreign and military affairs for Representative Robert J. Mrazek (Democrat of New York), said there is no egregious military imbalance on the Korean peninsula -- an assessment, he acknowledged, that is not shared by the U.S. or ROK governments.

"While the North does enjoy numerical superiority in most manpower and weapons categories, that advantage is offset by other factors, most notably the superior quality and greater sophistication of South Korean weapons," he said.

"Most analysts would credit ROK personnel with superior training, experience and leadership, and most believe that South Korea would benefit from superior fighting doctrine and tactics."

Kim Changsu, senior researcher for the Korean Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), said the dominant factor in the current North-South Korea relationship is that the two Koreas continue to perpetuate their history of perilous military confrontation.

The ROK's top priority will be the pursuit of a dialogue with North Korea, with the goal of reducing tensions and settling peace on the Korean peninsula, he said.

GE 3 EPF408 "To achieve this goal, the ROK government will continue to maintain security cooperation with its most credible ally, the United States," he said.

On the possibility of an eventual reunification of the two Koreas, he said the process "needs to be done in a very cautious manner, and there is little doubt that it will be done in a very unique Korean way."

While KIDA reports to the ROK's Ministry of National Defense, he said his views are solely his and do not represent the ROK government.


File Identification:  06/21/90, EP-408
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Thematic Codes:  1EA; 1DE
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  143753

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