In light of ongoing discussions about the potential for North Korean denuclearization, the alliance between the United States and South Korea may face fundamental questions in the near future. Even if the prospect of major breakthroughs in talks with Pyongyang is unlikely, the Singapore Summit and related events have at least raised the question of how the U.S.-ROK alliance should evolve, after a possible defusing of the North Korean threat at some point in the future.
Although there have been some challenges along the way of late, robust bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea on defense issues continues. The countries recently completed the 14th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue, where important talks occurred and commitments were reaffirmed. But the longer-term future of the alliance raises big questions: What posture toward a rising China, dynamic East-Asian theater, and other regional and global challenges should the United States and the Republic of Korea adopt together? Indeed, one might even ask, are a long-term alliance, and a continued U.S. troop presence on the peninsula, good ideas or not?
On August 22, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted an event to discuss the state of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, where it might be headed in the years ahead, and the implications for regional security and economic prosperity. Panelists included Michael Green from the Center for Strategic and International Studies as well as Jung Pak of Brookings. Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon moderated the discussion and shared his own thoughts.
Following their conversation, panelists took audience questions.
Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies
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At the end of the day, as we all know thorny national security issues don’t just involve the military; political-military considerations invariably bleed into them. If the senior military’s leadership views are going to be just constrained to military advice … who is thinking about issues from that broader perspective?