Where the World's Views of America Come into Focus
... Apparent Collapse of U.S.-Korea Alliance

The termination of America's program storing ammunition in South Korea indicates that the relationship is being badly mismanaged, and leaves a big whole in Seoul's defense capabilities.


April 10, 2005

Original Article (English)    

We know now that the U.S. told Korea in May of last year that it would remove its War Reserve Stocks for Allies (WRSA), emergency ordinance stockpiled for use by Korea, and that the government kept this quiet. This is an embarrassing story, suggesting that for over a year, the defense authorities of a country [South Korea] that dedicates such a large percentage of its GDP to defense spending, was unable to find a window for negotiations with an allied nation [the United States].

The urgent task now is to fill the hole in our defense capabilities that the termination of the War Reserve Stocks will create. The Stocks, 99.8 percent of which is composed of ammunition, make up 60 percent of the ammunition Korea would need in an emergency. Without it, our military would have only 10 days worth of ammunition. From the U.S. position, too, there would be no profit in destroying it or moving it abroad, so we must use all our negotiating strength to purchase what we need at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer.

The U.S. has been taking all sorts of steps that amount to a weakening of our defensive strength, including cutbacks in Korean staff at the U.S. base here, because it says that given the growth of our economic power, Seoul should no longer enjoy a free ride on security. But for U.S. Forces in Korea to publicly release a letter, sent in May by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, that proves the government has known of the plans and which is so embarrassing to Seoul, is something rarely seen in a relationships of old allies. President Roh’s claim that he is managing the Korea-U.S. alliance well now seems less than convincing.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung, who knows better than most what a mess the Korea-U.S. relationship is in, has said that the military must become a “prop” for Korea to carry out its role as a balancer in Northeast Asia.

Thus instead of attending to his job, which is the day-to-day running of the military, or trying to mend fences with Washington, it seems that the defense minister is devoting all of his energy making statements in support of the president’s political preferences.

—Related Video: Brookings Institution Discussion Of Six-Party Talks, Mar. 11, C-Span, 02:06:35

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