UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  144395

Title:  "US Must Maintain, Seoul Expand, Defense Commitment."

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz's address to the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, calling for the expansion of South Korea's commitment to its own defense. (900627)

Date:  19900627


06/27/90 *


(Text: Wolfowitz remarks to Carnegie Council) (3250)

New York -- Until Pyongyang is ready to enter into good faith negotiations with Seoul, the United States must continue to maintain a military presence on the Korean peninsula, according to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz.

In June 25 remarks to the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, Wolfowitz observed that while "the need of a credible U.S.-South Korean deterrent capability continues," the changing world security environment is leading the United States to adjust its presence in Korea and therefore Seoul "must expand its commitment to its own defense."

Following is the text of Wolfowitz's remarks, as delivered: (begin text)


Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to be asked to speak to this distinguished group on the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean conflict. Before moving on to my views of Korea's security role, I would like to reflect a bit about that earlier conflict and the subsequent events that led us to where we are today.


On June 25, 1950 -- June 24, Washington time -- after a two-hour artillery barrage, 90,000 North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel in a brutal, unprovoked attack on the Republic of Korea. They quickly overran South Korean defenses, capturing Seoul in five days, and forcing the defenders back into a small pocket around Pusan.

Within 24 hours of the attack, in Lake Success, New York, the United Nations Security Council met and -- thanks to the absence of the Soviets, who were boycotting the U.N. for its failure to seat Communist China -- passed a U.S.- sponsored resolution condemning the attack. Two days later, the U.N. called on members to assist South Korea.

GE 2 EPF302 Pursuant to that call on June 27, President Truman authorized the use of U.S. naval and air support for South Korean forces. Three days later, he approved General MacArthur's request for American ground forces from Japan to halt the rout. Some of these troops were stuffed into the gap and quickly overwhelmed. Perhaps best known was Task Force Smith -- the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Division -- which lost 153 killed, wounded and missing out of less than 500 men.

By the time the armistice was signed three years later, 54,260 American soldiers had been killed and 103,280 wounded. Other U.N. forces suffered 17,280 casualties. More than 1.3 million South Koreans had been killed or wounded, and the economies of both sides had been destroyed. The armistice left Korea still divided along the 38th parallel, and the fighting, which was conducted with a savagery extraordinary even in this violent century, left a legacy of bitterness and hatred that has persisted even today. And Chinese intervention on behalf of North Korea would poison already hostile U.S.-Chinese relations for the next 20 years.

Historians will long debate what led communist leaders to underestimate American resolve to defend Korea. Until the archives are opened in Pyongyang, Moscow and Beijing, we can only guess. It seems reasonable to think, as many have claimed, that Secretary of State Acheson was responsible. His January 12, 1950 Press Club speech sent the wrong signal by failing to include South Korea within the "defensive perimeter" that he drew in the Western Pacific.

But Acheson too is persuasive when he argues that the Soviets and North Koreans would have been far more impressed by the effects of "two years of agitation in Congress for withdrawal of combat forces from Korea"; by the removal of forces in 1949 under a U.N. resolution pushed by the United States calling for the withdrawal of U.S. and Soviet forces from Korea; and by the House of Representatives' defeat on January 19 of a "comparatively small" supplemental aid bill designed to "boost South Korean morale" in the face of U.S. withdrawal.

What is certain is that the attack came, and that all we had available at first to send to meet it were the men of Task Force Smith and other units which were rushed over from Japan, too late to deter, too weak, too small, too ill-equipped and too ill-trained to defend, but large enough to die. Typical of the post-World War Two, demobilized U.S. military, the units of the 24th Division were understrength, short on rifles and artillery, and -- in the face of a massive onslaught of armor -- without anti-tank guns. General Matthew Ridgway later said that, "If ever we were unprepared for a war, we were on this occasion."

GE 3 EPF302 The lessons of the Korean War are clear and relevant today: the importance of sending the right signals -- or more important, of not sending the wrong ones -- and the folly of excessive demobilization resulting in "hollow forces."


As we look at the world today, the Korean peninsula endures as one of the most disturbing vestiges of the Cold War, largely unaffected by the improvement in superpower relations. There is not even a peace treaty ending the Korean conflict, only the decades-old armistice, which remains in force today.

But while North Korea has remained frozen for forty years in unremitting hostility, under an inhuman, Orwellian regime that bankrupts its people in order to sustain a military of one million men, South Korea has moved forward dramatically and captured the attention of the world, first with its economic progress and, more recently, and maybe more gratifying, its political progress as well. While the chief domestic products of the North are fear and militarism, and the chief exports terror and assassination, the South Korean people have built, through diligence and hard work, a flourishing economy with almost unbelievable growth rates.

The statistical evidence of South Korea's economic strength abounds. One of the most instructive and dramatic indicators is that Korea is now the seventh largest trading partner of the United States. The South Korean people attained this aptly-dubbed economic miracle despite the requirement to invest heavily in security to assure that the North Koreans would not repeat their attempt to unite the peninsula by force.

Although the Korean people deserve the lion's share of the credit for those achievements, we are proud of the role the United States has played in supporting them. Most of all we are proud of and grateful to the thousands of Americans who fought in the Korean War, including the 54,260 who made the supreme sacrifice. Without those sacrifices none of today's achievements would have been possible. In addition, in the years since the signing of the armistice, the United States has provided substantial economic and military assistance to the South Koreans. U.S. forces have provided a continuing deterrent behind which the South Korean people could develop their economy and move to create a democratic government.

Thus, while North Korea has foundered and sinks even lower into the quagmire, the Republic of Korea has come of age. Its economic success story has been matched by a remarkable

GE 4 EPF302 transition to democracy, with greatly improved respect for human rights.

Symbolically, the 1988 Olympics in Seoul showed to the whole world that South Korea had emerged as a modern industrial state with an influential role in Asian and world events. In the twenty months since the Olympics the Koreans have only added to their international credentials. The Republic of Korea is now respected for its position and influence in a number of international fora, and is actively sought by less developed nations and the Soviet Union as a source of financing, technology and developmental expertise.

For two years, President Roh has guided the Republic of Korea's political policy of Nordpolitik, through which Seoul has actively sought to improve its relations with nations who have not been its traditional trading and political partners, including North Korea, notably the Soviet Union, the PRC, and Eastern Europe.

The most tangible evidence of the success of this policy, and also of the increased international stature of the Republic of Korea, was the meeting in San Francisco of President Roh and President Gorbachev. That meeting underscored the progress the Republic of Korea has made in gaining international acceptance and respect. In the wake of that meeting, it has been reported in the press that South Korea appears willing to extend some forms of commercial credits to the Soviet Union.

Of course, with success comes responsibility. In light of Korea's astounding progress, expectations have grown, both in Korea and abroad. In the U.S. those demands have been intensified by the continuing trade imbalance between the United States and the Republic of Korea. Some of those demands are reasonable, such as the expectation that Korea do more to sustain and strengthen the open international trading system from which Korea benefits so greatly. But there are other demands that are wrong and one that is even dangerous -- the claim that, with twice the population of North Korea and a GNP which is six to eight times that of the North, Seoul should be able to do more for its own defense, and that the U.S. should therefore withdraw its military presence from the Republic of Korea.

While the economic disparity between South and North is indeed large and growing, Seoul can do more now to contribute to its own defense. But the more extreme demands overlook several important facts.

First of these is the fact that the Koreans are now doing more than ever before in their own behalf. The Republic of Korea supports an extensive and modern armed force. Its forces are well equipped. U.S. military assistance to South Korea ended in 1986 and the Koreans now purchase over

GE 5 EPF302 200 million dollars a year in U.S. military equipment with their own funds. In addition, the South Korean defense industry supplies much of the equipment required.

A second point critics often ignore is that the United States is in Korea not only for Korean interests but first and foremost for our own. The U.S. presence on the peninsula is essential to deter war so that we never have to make those kinds of sacrifices again. Moreover, those American forces in Korea constitute an element of a regional presence and basing structure that contributes to the fundamental stability of the whole Pacific region.

A third fact glossed over by critics is that the United States has in fact been able to adjust its military presence on the peninsula over the years, even though the threat from the North has grown rapidly, because of the more rapidly growing ability of the South Korean forces to meet that threat. We are in the process of making another such adjustment. It is appropriate to do so at this time. South Korea's economic and democratic progress has made the time ripe for adjustment to the respective roles and missions performed by the two allies. This will be just one more in a series of remarkable "graduations" through which our dynamic ally has passed.

I have already mentioned Korea's graduation to become a paying customer. Even before that, Korea was one of the first, and still one of only few, countries to graduate from the class of economic aid recipients. Today, Korea buys more U.S. goods in a single year than the total of all the economic aid it received during the course of three decades. Some time ago, the ROK began providing the bulk of allied combat capability in Korea, but in many important respects it has still played only a supporting role. It is time that the Republic of Korea move from a supporting role in its own defense to that of a leading role.

Over the past twelve months we have been developing a strategic framework for a continuing U.S. presence in East Asia during the next decade. The president presented that plan in a report to Congress on April 19. In developing the framework outlined in the report, we carefully reviewed the anticipated threat from Pyongyang, the growing ROK capabilities, and American interests in the region. We concluded that there is a continuing need for a U.S. military presence in Korea if the U.S. is to remain a significant Pacific power and protect our interests, including deterring any possible North Korean attack. But we will be able to adjust our force structure in Korea substantially over the next decade. We can plan to do this, even though we cannot assume there will be any significant reduction in the North Korean threat, because we can count on the growing strength of our ally.

GE 6 EPF302 The expected adjustments to our force levels will be carried out in three phases. In Phase I (1990-1992) we plan on reducing our presence in Korea by about 7000. Of this number, about 5000 will be Army personnel and the remainder Air Force. During this phase, while some reductions will be made to our forces, we will be careful not to reduce the combat capabilities of the ground forces or the deterrent value of any of our forces.

During Phase II (1993-95), we may be able to make some adjustments to our combat capabilities, if there has been genuine tension reduction. We will need to establish a stable level for our force posture during Phase III (1996- 2000). How low that level can go will depend significantly on what North Korea does. Let me note here that one thing we are especially concerned about is the future direction of North Korea's nuclear program.

An essential element in the transition by the Republic of Korea to a leading role in its own defense is its assumption of greater command and control responsibilities. For example, we expect to deactivate the combined field army, and have recommended formation of a ground component command to support the combined forces command. The commander of this new organization would be a South Korean whereas the current commander of the combined field army is American.

Likewise, we would expect the South Koreans to take a more visible role with regard to managing the peace with the North Koreans. For example, we would hope at some appropriate point to have a South Korean officer as the senior representative of the U.N. command's military armistice commission. The assumption of increased leadership responsibilities like these by the Koreans will become more frequent as their enhanced defense capabilities become more evident and as Seoul begins to assume its rightful place in international affairs.

We have urged the South Koreans to continue to devote substantial resources to security. We have also asked them to provide support for the U.S. presence in South Korea. They have responded with programs to provide facilities and other support, and it is anticipated that this support will expand in the future to include payment of such costs as the benefits and wages of Korean nationals working for U.S. forces in Korea. A significantly increased responsibility sharing on the part of the South Koreans is absolutely essential to the health and well being of the alliance.


Given the substantial progress that has been made in recent years and the present stability that exists in the Republic

GE 7 EPF302 of Korea, prospects are excellent for a continuing free- market economy and the strengthening of democracy. The ROK government will enjoy even broader public support as its international credibility and standing advance.

An important test for Seoul will be its ability to generate productive dialogue with North Korea. While clearly the onus for improving relations rests primarily on Pyongyang, Seoul too must recognize that some compromise and accommodation may be necessary to resolve long standing issues and move toward mutual respect and eventual reunification.

The United States has consistently supported Korean unification on peaceful, democratic terms acceptable to all Korean people. We join with our South Korean allies in believing that a start must be made toward unification by the opening of practical humanitarian, social, and economic ties between both parts of Korea.

Such contacts can help bridge historic enmities. Inter- Korean dialogue and contacts hold the key to eventual Korean unification. Seoul has made numerous, constructive suggestions for reducing tensions on the peninsula and improving the bilateral relationship with Pyongyang. We fully support the South Korean initiatives, and again call on the North to enter serious discussions. As you know, the United States has met with North Korean representatives in Beijing. The meeting began in response to President Roh's statement of July 7, 1988. Further, we were encouraged by North Korea's return of remains of U.S. war dead to Chairman Sonny Montgomery on Memorial Day of this year. But I stress again, only Koreans -- North and South -- can decide the future of the Korean peninsula.

Until Pyongyang enters into good faith discussions with the South, though, defense considerations must remain a primary focus of tomorrow's Korea. The need for a credible U.S.- South Korean deterrent capability will continue. As the U.S. begins to adjust its presence in light of the changing security environment and improved ROK defense capabilities, Seoul must expand its commitment to its own defense.


Since the armistice of 1953, peace has been preserved on the peninsula through the continuing sacrifices of the Korean and American people. Korea has become a prosperous nation capable of providing its people with a constantly improving standard of living. It has achieved a government which has been democratically elected and which demonstrates concern for the human rights of the people. This record contrasts sharply with that of the North. There Kim Il Sung, one of Stalin's last remaining admirers,

GE 8 EPF302 has sacrificed economic and social development of his people for the pursuit of military superiority. The human spirit seems at times to have been twisted beyond recognition by one of the most monstrous of the tyrannies communism has created in this century.

One thing that the revolutions of 1989-1990 in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union demonstrate clearly is that the communist pretensions to creating a "new communist man" who would passively submit to the strictures of a totalitarian state did not reckon with the resilience of the human spirit. Perhaps that resilience will some day show itself in North Korea as well as bringing the kind of dramatic change we have seen recently in Europe.

Until that day comes, we must build our plans not on hopes but on realistic expectations. We must continue the same security policies and practices that have served us so well in the past.

We as Americans should remember that what happens in Korea affects not only Korea, not only northeast Asia, not only Asia, but the entire world.

In his famous speech before a joint session of Congress delivered after President Truman fired him in the middle of the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur made this observation on the interrelationship between Asia and the rest of the world: "The issues," MacArthur said, "are global and so interlocked that to consider the problems of one sector oblivious to those of another is but to court disaster for the whole. While Asia is commonly referred to as the gateway to Europe, it is no less true that Europe is the gateway to Asia. And the broad influence of the one cannot fail to have its impact on the other."

Let us hope that the broad influence of events in Europe today will have its fruits in Asia.

(end text)


File Identification:  06/27/90, EP-302
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Document Type:  TXT
Thematic Codes:  140
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  144395

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list