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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  143902

Title:  "Use Caution on US Troop Withdrawals, Experts Warn."

Article on Cato conference on US-ROK alliance. (900622)

Date:  19900622


06/22/90 * PAO/IO: Please review this article before distributing


(Article on Cato conference on US-ROK alliance) (1160)

By Jane A. Morse

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States should use great caution in executing its plans for troop drawdowns in East Asia and especially in the Republic of Korea, according to experts who spoke at a June 21 Cato Institute conference. The Cato Institute is a Washington-based public policy research foundation.

A. James Gregor, professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, warned against allowing the "euphoria" over political improvements in Eastern Europe to spill over into thinking about Asia.

Long-standing problems in Asia continue, he pointed out. Unlike Europe, where the Soviet Union was the common enemy, there is no single adversary in East Asia, thus making for a more complicated security picture, he said.

The Soviet Union has not reduced its military presence in Asia, Gregor said. Furthermore, the People's Republic of China could threaten regional peace by pursuing its claims to maritime territories in the China Sea. Both the Soviet Union and China are struggling with political upheaval, he noted, and historically "internal dissonance encourages military adventurism."

In determining military threat and possible troop withdrawals, Korea cannot be isolated from the larger Asia- Pacific picture, Gregor argued. "All of Asia is of a piece," he said.

According to Gregor, polls show that as much as 80 percent of South Koreans prefer that U.S. troops remain on the peninsula, despite an increasingly articulate minority that has made that presence an issue. Actually, it is U.S. trade polices that have fueled dissidence among Koreans, according to Gregor. Under the pressure of declining export sales, reduced profits and domestic income insecurity, the strained political system finds anti- Americanism can be a mobilizing theme, he said.

In all of the Asia-Pacific area, Gregor said, the possibility for crisis in Korea is the most threatening. There is no evidence that North Korea under Kim Il-Sung has

GE 2 EPF505 in any way reduced its aggressive intentions toward the South, he said. In addition, "North Korea remains one of the few remaining states in the international community that continues to condone the use of random violence against innocents as a component of its 'revolutionary' foreign policy," he said.

Any major drawdown of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Gregor said, could easily increase the risk of misadventure. Important U.S. interests in Korea, he said, include nurturing the market economy and democratic ideals.

Daryl Plunk, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said, "The litmus test for the U.S. military presence in Korea should be a simple one: When the threat from the North has diminished sufficiently, it will be time to begin removing American troops from Korea. This course not only sustains adequate deterrence but also allows the ROK to bargain with Pyongyang from a position of strength."

Plunk urged that Washington liberalize its contact policy for U.S. diplomats so that they may engage in "substantive discussions with North Korean diplomats in foreign capitals, Pyongyang officials visiting the United States, and with officials of the North's Permanent Observer Mission at the United Nations in New York.

"American officials should make it clear, however, that the appropriate forum for detailed negotiations is North-South bilateral talks and urge Pyongyang to resume negotiations with Seoul on political, military and economic confidence building measures," he said.

According to Plunk, the events in Eastern Europe have no impact on the people of North Korea because all forms of media are completely controlled. "Unlike Romania and most other communist nations, including China, average North Korean citizens know little or nothing about the changes sweeping the communist world."

Not so, according to Selig S. Harrison, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has visited North Korea on a number of occasions. Harrison said he believes that there is a sizable group of "moderates" within the North Korean government. Kim Jong- Il, son of Kim Il-Sung, has identified himself with reforms and the cause of obtaining more consumer goods for the populace, he said.

Kim Jong-Il has a sufficiently tight grip on state power to survive a transition period when his father finally dies, Harrison said, but this in no way suggests he will enjoy his father's longevity as a leader. For this reason, Harrison urged that the United States and the Republic of Korea make a concerted effort to deal with the elder Kim

GE 3 EPF505 now, since the future leadership may not be able to deliver any satisfactory agreements.

Harrison predicted U.S. troop withdrawals will not encourage the ROK to spend more on its own defense but instead cause it to try harder in its negotiations with North Korea.

Suh Dae-Sook, director of the Center for Korean Studies at the University of Hawaii, called U.S. perceptions of North Korea "too subjective." Contrary to popular American opinion, North Korea is far from isolated from the rest of the world -- it has diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries, he pointed out. While not affluent, North Korea has succeeded in meeting the basic human needs of its citizens, and significant internal structural changes are occurring, he said.

The U.S. presence in South Korea is no longer helping peace and security, according to Suh, and he urged a gradual but complete troop withdrawal. Let the two Koreas "fight it out or talk it out" was his advice.

Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, noting the U.S. security umbrella over the ROK was always intended to be temporary, advised the United States to "scrap the obsolescent 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty and begin withdrawing its troops from the peninsula."

The Republic of Korea (ROK), he said, is economically and politically able to stand independent of U.S. support. "Surely the purpose of the U.S. military is not to allow a country with one of the world's fastest growing economies over the last decade to concentrate its resources on business investment, consumer goods, and social services," he said.

Bandow advised a troop phase-out of approximately five years, during which time the United States should seek "to forge an agreement, formal or informal, with the U.S.S.R. and China that all three countries will discourage any aggressive action by their respective ally (North Korea) and will not intervene in any Korean conflict, regardless of who started it."

Edward A. Olsen, professor of national security affairs and Asian studies at the Naval Postgraduate School, said he believes the ROK is gradually developing a comprehensive security doctrine similar to that of Japan -- an evolution which he sees as beneficial.

"The more South Korea, like Japan, can cope with its national security, and thereby contribute to regional security, the more it will be able to relieve the United States of military, economic, and diplomatic burdens it has borne for its Northeast Asian allies," Olsen said.

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File Identification:  06/22/90, EP-505
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  143902

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