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A rogue adviser

May 03,2018
U.S. forces are stationed in South Korea not just because of North Korea. The mutual defense treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States clearly states that U.S. armed forces are here to counter all threats from the Pacific region, not just from North Korea. That justifies the existence of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to prevent all types of threats on the Korean Peninsula even if North Korea’s nuclear threat vanishes.

For South Korea, the USFK are essential to strike a military balance with China and Russia as well as to cope with any rearming of Japan regardless of North Korea’s threats to South Korea. China is still considering South Korea as some sort of a vassal state. The need for the constant deployment of U.S. forces in South Korea is shared by conservative and liberal security experts alike. President Moon Jae-in has underscored that the USFK is important not only as a deterrence against North Korea but also as a mechanism to safeguard the peace of the entire Northeast Asian region.

Nevertheless, Moon Chung-in, President Moon’s special adviser on unification, diplomacy and security, made a strange argument in a recent contribution to Foreign Affairs, a magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States. He claimed that if Washington and Pyongyang sign a peace treaty sooner or later, the justification for the stationing of U.S. forces in South Korea will disappear. As conservative opposition parties will surely oppose the withdrawal of USFK, it will pose a serious dilemma to President Moon, he wrote.

Such a hasty conclusion by adviser Moon constitutes an irresponsible act of questioning the legitimacy of USFK and damaging our security. Even North Korea accepted the raison d’être for the USFK. The special adviser’s remarks threw cold water on the government’s effort to hammer out a peace treaty with North Korea on the premise that there will be no change in the status of USFK in the future.

President Moon instructed his Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok to admonish his security adviser so that he does not cause any more confusion about the role of U.S. forces in South Korea. Moon stressed that the fate of the USFK has nothing to do with a peace treaty because it involves the Korea-U.S. alliance.

But those reassurances are not enough. Special adviser Moon has often triggered internal conflict after making provocative remarks strongly suggestive of defamation of the decades-old alliance. He has been commenting as if he represents North Korea’s position. At every slip of the tongue, the Blue House and the government have had to deny what he says. It is questionable if a rebuke can really stop him from sparking confusion again. President Moon must fire him if he continues to cause trouble.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 3, Page 34