Tuesday, April 3, 2012

US-Korean relations and the Philippines

THE analysis by STRATFOR’s George Friedman of the US presence in the Korean Peninsula and what the Obama administration can do about it should be of interest to us Filipinos.

We too are a “special” friend and ally of the United States like South Korea, which hosts US military bases and personnel whose presence definitely preserves the peace on the Korean Peninsula.

As the STRATFOR analysis postulates, even Russia (which, when it was the head of the Soviet Empire, was an aid-giver and moral supporter of Pyongyang) and China (which continues to be NK’s closest ally, aid-giver and moral supporter), both of which sometimes make polemical statements about the US military presence, are quite happy that the US has not withdrawn from South Korea. This is because China’s ward might be emboldened to crazily attack Seoul, invade it and provoke a war that nobody wants. South Korea and China are turning out to be great business partners, something that China values.

President Aquino has correctly announced that it is his policy to expand military cooperation with the United States, like increasing the military exercises and the Balikatan activities. But also very correctly he has affirmed his unwillingness to welcome permanent US military bases in our country.
We have been insisting that our policy to retain and even expand our long-standing military alliance with America has nothing to do with China. We are dependent on the United States for the major improvements in our military capability to defend ourselves from an external aggressor. Right now the only state that has been the source of citizens and military units committing acts of aggression against us is China. Chinese Navy vessels have intimidated Philippine seismic survey people to move out of waters and islets that definitely belong to our country in the West Philippine Sea (also called the South China Sea).

But it is the truth when we tell China that any improvements, thanks to American aid and loans, in our preparedness and ability to put up a fight against an external enemy is not being done with China in mind. We have had programs to equip our military more adequately and train our soldiers better even before the Philippines and the PRC entered into formal diplomatic relations.

Another sign of our military dependence on America is the request our President was reported to have made to the US for help in knocking out the North Korean missile if it threatens to hit any part of the Philippines. Our rabid anti-Americans are frothing about that issue. But seeking help from the United States to save the skulls of Filipinos on whom the NoKor missile might fall is nothing to be ashamed off.

US troop withdrawal from South Korea
The Obama administration is called upon by its own logic to extricate itself from the expensive commitment of ground troops to the Korean Peninsula. But as Dr. George Friedman writes in his analysis it would be hard for America to do so.

“At this point, it would be difficult for the United States to withdraw from South Korea. The North Korean nuclear threat fixes the situation in place, even for troops that aren’t relevant to that threat. The troops could be withdrawn, but they won’t be because the inertia of the situation makes it easier to leave them there than withdraw. As for the South Koreans, they simultaneously dislike the American presence and want it there, since it ensures US military involvement in any crisis.

“While the US troop presence in Korea may not make the most sense in a global US military strategy, it ironically seems to fit, at least for now, the interests of the Chinese, South Koreans and Japanese, and even in some sense the North Koreans. The United States, as the global power, therefore is locked into a deployment that does not match the regional requirements, requires endless explanation and is the source of frequent political complications. What we are left with is a US strategy not based necessarily on the current situation but one tied to a historical legacy, left in place by inertia and held in place by the North Korean nuclear ‘threat.’ “

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
One of the goals of the recently concluded 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul is precisely to devise ways of persuading the North Korean rulers to give up their phantom delight in being a nuclear power.

When American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently met South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan, among the wide range of issues they discussed was denuclearization of the peninsula.
She reiterated the US position that the United States remains committed to achieving a lasting peace on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

“Our position,” she said, “has not changed. While we remain open to direct engagement with North Korea, we remain firm in our resolve and our shared position that Pyongyang must improve its relations with the Republic of Korea.”

US-SK comprehensive security alliance
In 2009, the United States and the Republic of Korea agreed to a comprehensive security alliance.

That laid the foundation for comprehensive cooperation between the two countries. That cooperation has come to characterize their transatlantic relationship. That is happening at this time when changes in global dynamics make it more necessary for the United States to have more Asian partners who share common regional and global interests with it.

The Philippines should seek a more comprehensive security alliance with the US.

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