The U.S. and Korea; A Once-Strained Relationship on the Mend

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President Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak fixed the strained relationship between the two nations when they met at the Camp David summit in April 2008. This relationship had grown quite strained under the previous Korean government because of its unconditional willingness to appease North Korea's dictatorial regime.

Over the past 10 years, the Republic of Korea's leftist governments were fueled by a combination of xenophobic nationalism and anti-Americanism unique to South Korea. Then, in December, voters elected a pro-American conservative businessman-turned politician to the presidency. They expressed a desire to restore the relationship between the two nations - and then they expressed the same desire again in the April 2008 National Assembly election.

In the wake of the summit and its favorable implications for U.S.-Korean cooperation, it seems to this retired professor that as long as the United States, South Korea and Japan condemn in unison North Korea's nuclear arms proliferation and its shameful human-rights record, North Korea's diplomacy of brinkmanship cannot last long. China and Russia, the former and present allies of North Korea, should be ashamed of their support of Pyongyang. They should compel North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to adopt regime changes. It may be impossible to achieve regime change in North Korea. But a serious attempt must be made nonetheless. There is no other way.

Among the dividends of the Camp David meeting: The North Korean threat was assessed adequately, and the date of transfer of the Combined Forces Command from the United States to South Korea - which the previous regime had originally scheduled to take place on April 17, 2012 - was rescheduled. President Bush promised to maintain the current U.S. forces in Korea. That decision pleased many Koreans.

Ultimately, the South Korean army alone must be able to deter threats from North Korea, and win the war, if it were to break out. In the meantime, however, the presence of U.S. forces in Korea - they currently number approximately 28,500 - should continue as a deterrent. More importantly, the United States should be able to demonstrate the strength of the U.S.-South Korea security alliance as a keeper of the peace in East Asia.

The two presidents, as agreed at Camp David, can facilitate the ratification of free trade agreements between the two nations. Their respective congresses can now be expected to make them law. …