Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement

By Selig S. Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 22
Will History Repeat Itself?

IN DECIDING whether to continue the American military presence and the American nuclear umbrella in Korea—and if so, for how long—the United States must consider not only American interests in Korea itself but also the broader impact of American policies on regional stability and U.S. interests in East Asia as a whole. Would the indefinite continuance of the American presence in the South promote regional stability and positive U.S. relations with Japan, China, and Russia, as its proponents argue? Or would a gradual process of disengagement, culminating in agreements to neutralize and denuclearize Korea, better serve American interests and those of the East Asian powers?

I cautioned in part 3 against an abrupt disengagement, suggesting instead a finite transitional period of perhaps ten years during which the United States would be prepared to redeploy and withdraw some or all of its combat forces in Korea, especially its combat aircraft, in exchange for North Korean pullbacks of forward-deployed forces and steps to limit or end its missile and nuclear development. The United States would seek to promote a reduction of military tensions in the peninsula during this period by adopting a more balanced posture in dealing with the North and South. I showed that past U.S. and South Korean tension-reduction proposals have been stacked against the North and proposed more equitable arms-control trade-offs that are likely to be acceptable to Pyongyang. As tensions at the thirty-eighth parallel decline and adversarial relations between the United States and North Korea come to an end, Pyongyang might well agree to the continuation of a reduced U.S. ground force presence. But the ultimate U.S. objective should be to withdraw all U.S. forces if agreements can be concluded with China, Russia, and Japan barring the future deployment of military forces in the peninsula. China and the United States would then terminate their mutual security treaties with Pyongyang and Seoul. Korea would become a neutral buffer state and, as such, would be a stabilizing force in Northeast Asia.

As I showed in part 4, U.S. denuclearization initiatives should logically accompany the neutralization of the peninsula as an arena of conven-

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