Monday, January 28, 2013

South Korea’s Unsustainable Military Build-Up


These three factors are important:
Despite ROK’s latest military build-up, defense analysts still express concerns about ROK’s ability to defend itself after the wartime OPCON transfer in 2015. Their concerns are threefold: the budgetary and institutional handicaps inherent within South Korea’s strategic framework and the domestic zeitgeist that is opposed to further militarization of the ROK. One must also consider South Korea’s territorial dispute involving Dokdo/Takeshima which has strained the ROK-Japan alliance, and South Korea’s growing concerns about handling China’s ascendancy.
Mr. Lee does not draw the conclusion that he should:  The Allliance should reconsider the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command in 2015 and instead keep the Alliance together and strong until the threat from the north is eliminated.  We should also keep in mind the 2009 Joint Vision Statement that will hopefully be renewed when Madam Park visits the US in May:  the end state is (peaceful) unification of the Korean Peninsula – while we would hope for a peaceful unification we have to recognize that whether it is peaceful or not will be driven by the actions of the Kim Family Regime.
V/R
Dave

South Korea’s Unsustainable Military Build-Up


ROKS Dokdo underway in the Sea of Japan during joint operation Invincible Spirit. Image: US Navy

South Korea takes immense pride in its powerful military. According to Globalfirepower.com, South Korea (or the ROK) ranked 8th overall in military strength. Indeed, Scott Snyder’s recent CSIS report argues that one noteworthy trend of late “is South Korea’s emergence as a producer rather than a consumer of international security goods despite an ongoing threat from North Korea (or DPRK).” However, there are several factors at play that do not bode well for the ROK’s recent military build-up. They show that absent America’s long-term presence in the Far East, the ROK will have difficulty meeting its security needs.

The Operational Control transfer scheduled for 2015 and the perceived threat from North Korea are key to understanding ROK’s capital-intensive militarization. ROK Navy Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Kim Duk-ki wrotethat North Korea’s “asymmetric assets [in the form of special operations forces, cyber threats, and nuclear weapons] … will pose a serious threat to the ROK military.”

To offset its strategic vulnerabilities, the ROK implemented a vigorous procurement and acquisition of state-of-the-art weaponry and indigenous research and development programs for its local defense industries. To update its aging combat aircraft, the ROK Air Force plans to purchase sixty stealth fighters through its KFX-III (Korean Fighter eXperimental-III) Program.  The ROK military, however, shelved plans to purchase  the RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawks, given what they believed were prohibitive costs. Another outcome of South Korea’s militarization is the expansion of the ROK Navy. ROKN’s active anti-piracy campaigns in the Gulf of Aden, and its blue-water navy warships capable of “operat[ing] anywhere in the world,” may suggest that the ROK has become a great regional naval power and beyond.

Despite ROK’s latest military build-up, defense analysts still express concerns about ROK’s ability to defend itself after the wartime OPCON transfer in 2015. Their concerns are threefold: the budgetary and institutional handicaps inherent within South Korea’s strategic framework and the domestic zeitgeist that is opposed to further militarization of the ROK. One must also consider South Korea’s territorial dispute involving Dokdo/Takeshima which has strained the ROK-Japan alliance, and South Korea’s growing concerns about handling China’s ascendancy.
(Continued at the link below)

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. As the author of the above piece, I must tell you that I HAVE given thought to the deferral of the OPCON transfer to SO THAT Kim Jong-un would not miscontrue the transfer as dissolution of the US-ROK alliance.

    I do NOT, however, think that reunification will come to fruition. Better that they coexist as separate sovereign entities. (I made that case here: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/01/12/north-korea-is-a-state-why-not-say-so/). My reasons are three-fold: For one, reunification will prove TOO costly for the ROK financially. Second, China will not likely sit idly while Choson becomes absorbed--and not reunified!--by its Southern brethren. Third, the two Korean/Choson states have drifted so far apart that they are no longer compatible.

    I should conclude this by saying that Kim Jong-un did extend the olive branch to Park Geun-hye, the ROK president-elect earlier this year. What that showed was that Lee Myung-bak's truculent stance was never feasible as a coherent approach. That said, I believe that the one thing that makes Kim Jong-un tick is his own regime survival.

    Best to ride along with the beast rather than attempt to tame it.

    Thank you. (Should you wish to add further, please, feel free to comment on the comment section of the Georgetown Journal.)

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