NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ending the Our Korean Commitment

September 24, 2003

The United States has maintained a military presence in South Korea for the past 50 years, and currently has 37,000 troops stationed there. Rising anti-American sentiment in the region combined with South Korea's ability to provide for its own defense makes it an opportune time to withdraw these troops, as they no longer serve any useful military purpose, argues Doug Bandow in a recent Cato Institute report.

"Without any connection to the Cold War that ended over a decade ago, and absent a global hegemonic struggle, Korea is relatively unimportant to the United States from a military and strategic standpoint," says Bandow. Furthermore, South Korea now has the means to defend itself from North Korea's "large but decrepit" armed forces.

  • South Korea had a Gross Domestic Product of $462 billion in 2001, making it the world's twelfth largest economy.
  • The nation has undertaken a space program with the goal of launching a satellite in two years; this would reduce its reliance on American intelligence.
  • South Korea has also introduced plans for a navy and is militarily superior to North Korea in many aspects, including command-and-control and training.

Deterring North Korea (especially now that it has nuclear capabilities) should remain a goal of U.S. foreign policy, says Bandow, but it must accomplish this by placing responsibility on other regional players like Japan, China, and Russia. Only by withdrawing its guarantee of security for South Korea can America force other states to act.

Source: Doug Bandow, "Bring the Troops Home: Ending the Obsolete Korean Commitment," Policy Analysis No. 474, May 7, 2003, Cato Institute.

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