At the 1st Session of SCAP in Washington: Min. Ban and Sec. Rice Agreed to the Expanded Role Of the USFK as a Stabilizer In Northeast Asia
South Korea (Republic of Korea - ROK) has agreed to allow the United States use troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula as a rapid deployment force to deal with possible conflicts around Northeast Asia. The agreement, coming after three years of tough negotiations, is part of Washington's global plan to give its forces greater "strategic flexibility." In a joint statement issued at the first session of the Strategic Consultation for Allied Partnership (SCAP) in Washington D.C. on Jan. 19, 2006, South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed to the expanded role of the United States Forces Korea (USFK) as a stabilizer in Northeast Asia. The talks are the first of their kind following an agreement at the South Korea-U.S. Summit in Gyeongju last November. The key initiatives set down for future strategic dialogue included "cooperation and coordination of efforts to promote freedom, democratic institutions and human rights worldwide, cooperation on fighting terrorism, strategies to fight transnational pandemic disease, and developing approaches for multilateral peacekeeping and disaster management." "The ROK, as an ally, fully understands the rationale for the transformation of the U.S. global military strategy, and respects the necessity for strategic flexibility of the U.S. Forces in the ROK," the statement said. Reflecting Seoul's concerns over the changing role of the USFK, the statement also read: "In the imple-mentation of strategic flexibility, the United States respects the ROK position that it shall not be involved in a regional conflict in Northeast Asia against the will of the Korean people." The United States has sought to enhance the mobility of its troops overseas since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Some 30,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in South Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War. Since discussions began on the new U.S. policy in 2003, the Korean government has been reluctant to permit U.S. troops based in Korea such flexible movement out of concern that it could drag Korea into overseas conflicts. Asked about the nuclear stalemates in North Korea (The Democratic People's Republic of Korea - DPRK) and Iran, Minister Ban and Secretary Rice also announced in the joint statement that the two nations urge North Korea to return promptly to the six-party nuclear negotiations and called for the establishment of a permanent peaceful regime on the divided Korean Peninsula. Ban said South Korea, as a country facing a nuclear-capable neighbor, has no other choice "but to express our deep concern" about Iran. "At this time, our preference is still that this Iranian issue should be resolved through negotiation if there is any room left," he said. "If there is no other choice, we will support the referral of this issue to the U.N. Security Council." With the "strategic flexibility" agreement made between Seoul and Washington, it is inevitable the military alliance between the two countries is to undergo substantial change. What concerns us most is the possibility that the change will seriously compromise national security in light of the geopolitical situation on the Korean Peninsula. The agreement permits the U.S. to relocate its troops stationed in South Korea to other parts of the world where the U.S. faces conflicts. The agreement concluded three years of tough negotiations on the global strategic flexibility policy Washington has pursued since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Gist of the Joint Statement of the U.S.-ROK SCAP:
The U.S.-ROK Partnership Encompasses a Broad Range Of Interests and Goals
The following are excerpts from a joint statement issued by South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the First Session of the U.S.-ROK Strategic Consultation for Allied Partnership (SCAP), held on Jan. 19, 2006, in Washington, D.C. - Ed.
The U.S-ROK alliance was forged in battle and tested through the long years of the Cold War. Today, our alliance remains a bulwark of stability in Northeast Asia and our security cooperation has provided a framework for the development and growth of our economic ties and the nurturing and protection of common values rooted in shared respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Secretary Rice and Minister Ban agreed that the U.S.-ROK partnership encompasses a broad range of interests and goals. The SCAP aspires through regular high-level meetings supported by seniorlevel discussions to harness and focus the respective strengths of our societies to resolve pressing regional and global challenges. Secretary Rice and Minister Ban set out a dynamic agenda for future discussions within the framework of the Strategic Consultations. Their emphasis is on creative initiatives producing concrete results and highlighting cooperation between the two countries. Key initiatives include: -Cooperation and coordination of efforts to promote freedom, democratic institutions and human rights worldwide, demonstrated by their successful shared effort in Iraq and Afghanistan; -Strengthened cooperation on fighting terrorism, and exerting common efforts for the observance and implementation of international security cooperation regimes for the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their delivery means; -Coordination and combination of efforts to develop comprehensive international strategies to fight transnational pandemic disease; -Maintaining a strong U.S.-ROK alliance to contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia, leading possibly to an eventual regional multinational mechanism for security cooperation; -Developing common approaches to reinforcing peace and stability through multilateral peacekeeping and improved collaboration on crisis responses and disaster management. Regarding the issue of strategic flexibility of U.S. forces in the ROK, Secretary Rice and Minister Ban confirmed the understanding of both governments as follows: The ROK, as an ally, fully understands the rationale for the transformation of the U.S. global military strategy, and respects the necessity for strategic flexibility of the U.S. forces in the ROK. In the implementation of strategic flexibility, the U.S. respects the ROK position that it shall not be involved in a regional conflict in Northeast Asia against the will of the Korean people. Together, the Ministers expressed hope that a basis for a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula can be explored in the course of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Secretary Rice and Minister Ban reaffirmed that efforts to establish a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula will be based on the U.S.-ROK alliance.★