Monday, May 14, 2018

Seoul Survivor

If there is a nuclear deal and peace treaty with North Korea, that ends the war and nuclear threat, should American troops in South Korea be withdrawn? Of course not.

Will American troops be withdrawn from South Korea if a nuclear deal is completed?

Powerful voices in Washington and Seoul have given a burst of energy to a question long relegated to the margins of public debate: If a peace deal can be struck with Pyongyang, would there be any need for U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula?

Yes, there would be a need for American forces on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea still has an army with lots of artillery, and China looms over it all. South Korea could use American forces to deter China (and no deal that gets rid of North Korean nukes will allow South Korea to go nuclear to deter China) and a North Korea that has second thoughts about peace.

Further, securing Japan requires a secure South Korea.

And American forces in South Korea can use that territory as a staging area to patrol the region or deploy to the area in a crisis.

How many and what kind of American forces should be there is another question.

At the height of the Korean War we had multiple Army divisions and a Marine division under an army command. Through much of the Cold War we had a corps of two divisions. Late in the Cold War it dropped to a division and now it is just a brigade plus. And air power, of course.

If there is peace in the region, the Army brigade might be considered more of a forward deployed unit for the entire region rather than being tied to South Korea's defense.

America has very few troops in South Korea these days. I don't see why we'd want to do more than marginally pare down the contingent given the broader security interests in the region.