The United States and its allies are moving forward with active naval operations to contain the North Korean proliferation threat. The strikingly odd thing about this is that South Korea isn’t going to be one of them. Here is a list of nations with which the United States has more diplomatic and military synergy today than with South Korea: Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Australia, … and France. I guess you’re officially no longer a U.S. ally when the United States has closer military cooperation with France than it has with your country. The Americans weren’t exactly surprised by this, either.
Washington has been actively pushing the PSI itself, which grants more sweeping inspection authority and, through bilateral agreements, allows interdiction in the high seas. Support by Seoul and Beijing is deemed crucial because of their shared borders with Pyongyang. A large portion of the North Korea-bound overland shipments are processed through China.
Two U.S. undersecretaries of state made a trip to Asia, including Seoul, earlier this month, and PSI cooperation was on their agendas.
Michael Green, former Asia director at the National Security Council, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Seoul’s decision, predicting it would only isolate South Korea from the rest of the international community.
“All the other parties are all putting sticks on the table in addition to carrots, but by not willing to put sticks on the table, the ROK doesn’t come to this discussion with a sufficient tool kit to shape the process and lead in the international effort to peacefully end the North Korean nuclear weapons program,” he told Yonhap.
The PSI does not “desperately” require Seoul’s participation to be successful, said Green, now senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I don’t think the approach to North Korea will fail because of this. I don’t think PSI will fail.”
“I just think it’s unfortunate from the perspective of increasing South Korea’s influence and role in the diplomacy,” he said.
As previously, the diplomatic and military benefits of maintaining a large U.S. ground component in South Korea completely escapes me. Can anyone still make a defensible claim that South Korea really is an ally of the United States? Can anyone name a single tangible military or diplomatic benefit South Korea has contributed to the security of the United States within the last decade?