11.10.2017 0

Will the ‘3 no’s’ sink the U.S. South Korean relationship?

By Printus LeBlanc

As President Donald Trump travels from country to country on his Asia trip, North Korea dominates the narrative. North Korea continues to be a belligerent and threatens all neighbors with nuclear annihilation. President Trump has been very supportive of South Korea since he took office, but a recent agreement between South Korea and China should have the U.S. rethinking strategy on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea recently reached a suspicious agreement with China. In an attempt to improve relations with China, South Korea agreed to “3 no’s” concerning the U.S. military and strategy in the region.

It is important to note that South Korea does not exist without the U.S. North Korea wants to reunify the Korean Peninsula and is not afraid to lose hundreds of thousands of its troops to do so. The only thing that has stopped the north from reunification is the presence of U.S. troops. North Korea knows it cannot compete with the military might of the U.S. and has therefore not attempted a reunification.

The first “no” agreed to by South Korea is no additional deployments of U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries. THAAD is part of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense system and designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles.

Yes, the U.S. is a guest of South Korea, but no nation has any right to tell the U.S. how to protect its troops. THAAD is a vital element of force protection for the 75,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and Japan. North Korea has roughly 200 missile launchers capable of firing short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles aimed at South Korea and Japan. By limiting the number of THAAD batteries, the North Koreans now know they can overwhelm U.S. systems.

The second “no” is that China wants South Korea to not participate in the U.S. missile defense network. U.S. missile defense is designed to intercept ballistic missiles launched from rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea. The U.S. has missile defense systems linked by radar stations, ground-based interceptors, and naval vessels with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems.

To intercept North Korean missiles U.S. and South Korean systems must be able to interface with one another. Tracking information of missiles needs to be shared in real time to facilitate the efficient interception of those missiles. Having missile defense systems that cannot talk to one another is asinine.

The final “no” from China is no establishment of a trilateral military alliance with the U.S., South Korea and Japan. China fears a NATO-like coalition in their neighborhood while they are attempting to assert hegemonic control over the region.

If any actions were to happen with North Korea, it most certainly would involve multiple regional actors. By implicating there will be no alliance between South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, Moon has given the North Koreans a strategic advantage. North Korea now knows it doesn’t have to worry about Japan. Why tip your hand to the enemy?

All three conditions bring no benefit to South Korea and give a significant advantage to North Korea. The “no’s” limit the ability of the U.S. to defend its troops and provide a deterrence against North Korean aggression.

Why would South Korea make a deal with China? The ballistic missiles, at the center of much of the turmoil with North Korea, are made with Chinese components. Rick Fisher, a Senior Fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said, “Indian sources credit China as the source of the new [Pakistani] ABABEEL warhead multiple reentry vehicle technology and it is indeed plausible Pakistan passed such Chinese-origin technology to North Korea.” China is clearly part of the problem in dealing with North Korea, why would South Korea trust them?

Three weeks ago, it would be unthinkable to pull U.S. troops off the Korean Peninsula. But when the country the U.S. is protecting goes behind the back of the U.S. to negotiate deals that affect the safety of U.S. troops, it is time to rethink strategy. The “3 no’s” endanger American lives on the Peninsula and make war more likely. South Korea must say no to the deal, or perhaps they can deal with North Korea themselves.

Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.

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