TITLE

Holding the Border

AUTHOR(S)
Wehrfritz, George; Lee, B. J.
PUB. DATE
May 2003
SOURCE
Newsweek (Atlantic Edition);5/19/2003 (Atlantic Edition), Vol. 141 Issue 20, p26
SOURCE TYPE
Periodical
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
For decades GIs deployed along the demilitarized zone in South Korea were collectively known as a" tripwire" force, units whose main objective was to shed blood in the first moments of a North Korean attack, thereby committing the United States to the South's defense. Prime Minister Goh Kun christened their mission a "frontline partnership." His phrase aims to quell U.S. anger over the tripwire characterization. The semantics betray deep strains in the Washington-Seoul alliance. When South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun calls on George W. Bush for a summit in the White House, talk will focus on the North Korean nuclear crisis. But the backdrop is America's ongoing review of its role in the defense of South Korea. In the wake of September 11, the anti-American protests that erupted across the South last year and America's recent blitzkrieg into Iraq, the Bush administration is questioning the utility of a force "whose mission it is to die or be wounded," says William Drennan, deputy director of the United States Institute of Peace in Washington. While it's true that Roh has acted to slow any American departure, both by toning down anti-U.S. street protests and by arguing that it's unwise to pull GIs off the DMZ before the nuclear crisis abates, Roh's actions betray a belief that, sooner or later, Seoul will take a leading role in its own defense. Washington isn't about leave the Korean Peninsula entirely. But serious discussions about downsizing the U.S. combat force in the South have been underway. Military analysts believe that, should the U.S. stage a first strike to take out North Korean nuclear facilities, Pyongyang might retaliate by targeting U.S.units within range of its guns. Shifting frontline duties to the South Korean military would eliminate the danger without compromising security. Yet many Koreans suspect that a U.S. pullback would free the Bush administration's hand to launch a pre-emptive war against North Korea without first consulting Seoul.
ACCESSION #
9812171

 

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