I think the author is only half right. I fully agree that the presence of US forces on the Peninsula is seen by the regime as enhancing its legitimacy both for internal domestic propaganda purposes as well as to justify its Military First Politics. But I disagree with the analysis that the US only wants bases on the Korean Peninsula and that it is deliberately preventing peace so that it can maintain its presence. Yes this is paradoxical problem in some sense. US forces help to deter war but also help prop up the regime. But the US does not want bases on the Peninsula just for the sake of having bases on the Asian mainland. Instead it maintains its presence to support its Alliance with the ROK and together the ROK/US Combined Forces Command contribute as the military instrument of power to supporting the deterrence of north Korean attack. The problem is that based on the six decades of north Korean history, a peace agreement resulting in the removal of US forces will almost certainly guarantee a return to war as the north will execute its campaign plan to reunify the peninsula under its control once the correlation of forces are in its favor and that requires the condition of no US forces present. That is why the north's actions have to be viewed from the perspective that one of the key pillars of its strategy is to split the ROK/US Alliance not only politically but militarily (and from the north's perspective they are succeeding). And regarding US bases, we should also keep in mind that the decision to have US bases on the Peninsula is as much a ROK decision as a US decision. Yes the US could unilaterally withdraw them but if the ROK does not want them present, the US could not unilaterally decide to maintain them. Even beyond war or regime collapse (or both) and reaching the ROK/US strategic end state of a unified Korea (whether through peaceful means or through war or collapse) the future of the Alliance arrangements will be decided by mutual agreement by the ROK and US and how both nations' assess the need for the Alliance to include whether or not the Alliance will require the continued presence of US forces on the Peninsula. The bottom line is that I strongly disagree with the author's assessment that the US wants the status quo maintained so that it can maintain bases on the Asia land mass. I think the Alliance wants to deter war and prepare for what comes next in terms of the Kim Family Regime's future existence.
WASHINGTON AND PYONGYANG: JUST LIKE LIPS AND TEETH?
ARE U.S.-DPRK CALLS FOR PEACE AND UNIFICATION IN THE KOREAN PENINSULA JUST LIP SERVICE TO MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO?
by Charles K. Park , March 1, 2013
Mao Zedong’s famous dictum that the Chinese and North Koreans are “like lips and teeth” may actually have been a little off the mark. That’s because the North Koreans are suspicious of the Chinese and the Chinese fret that they have no influence over the ungrateful North Koreans. Rather, the two who may really be like lips and teeth may, in fact, be the United States and the DPRK – two supposed mortal enemies.
Since the creation of the DPRK, the Kims relied on the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) threat to consolidate and hold onto power. They have used the long history of confrontation and an unfinished war against a Goliath superpower to create a kind of totalitarian “guerrilla state” in which the soldierly obedient population is made dependent on a messiah like “general.” A permanent U.S. imperial threat, real or imagined, is a key ingredient to the legitimacy and perpetuation of the North Korean system.
The U.S. role in propping up the North Korean regime has been little noted, yet the yearly U.S.-ROK war games directed at North Korea, sprawling U.S. military bases in South Korea, embargoes in place since the birth of North Korea, multiple layers of sanctions, and an Axis of Evil label all helped play into a narrative in which the Pyongyang regime spins to control its people.
If one removes the rhetoric and just looks at behaviors and outcomes, one could argue, possibly at least since the end of the Cold War, that the unspoken policy of the U.S. was the perpetuation of the DPRK regime. In a way, we Americans prop up the DPRK regime not with generous aid and peace, but by giving it real fuel to fire its raison d’etre, which according to the narrative of the regime is the fear of an impending invasion or conflict with imperial America and its puppet the ROK.
In turn, the U.S. may depend on DPRK belligerence for its own interest. The U.S.-ROK alliance is a tremendous asset to the U.S: The bases in South Korea represent a strategic foothold on mainland Asia largely paid for by the South Koreans and, under bilateral defense treaties, the U.S. has potential control over one of the largest and advanced militaries in the world. Through the usually belligerent rhetoric, the occasional provocation , and now nuclear arms brinkmanship, the DPRK helps legitimate the U.S.-ROK alliance and secure a firm U.S. presence on the peninsula. Again, rhetoric aside and looking just at behaviors and outcomes, the U.S. may count on no better ally than the North Koreans.
(Continued at the link below)