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MEMOIRS OF A KOREAN AMBASSADOR: FROM ENGAGEMENT TO ENTANGLEMENT UNDER CLINTON AND BUSH* Sung Chul Yang Introduction In this article I will focus on the relations between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States from August 2000 through April 2003, the years that I was directly and personally involved in the external affairs of Korea as its ambassador to the United States. My personal experiences, encounters and observations in handling the North Korean question between the ROK and the United States will be one of the main topics. But first a word must be said about the U.S.-ROK alliance. The Alliance The United States became the only treaty ally of the Republic of Korea, bound by the 1954 ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. Since the onset of bilateral formal defense alliance, the structure and nature of the ROK-U.S. security relations have been trans- * Portions of this document have been published in Ambassadors’ Memoir: U.S.-Korea Relations Through the Eyes of the Ambassadors (Washington, D.C.: Korea Economic Institute, 2009), and are reprinted with permission. ASIAN PERSPECTIVE, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2010, pp. 191-214. Document forming continuously in response to the changing ROK, U.S., inter-Korean, regional and global political and security environments . At least four milestone phases are discernible. First, in 1964 Park Chung Hee, as president in mufti, confronted two foreign and security issues—the ROK-Japan normalization question and the ROK army’s participation in the Vietnam War. Amid stiff domestic opposition, he succeeded in implementing both. He concluded the Treaty on Basic Relations between the ROK and Japan on June 22, 1965, and sent troops to South Vietnam. By 1971 South Korean troops in South Vietnam reached 50,000, while U.S. troops in South Korea, totaled 60,000, of which 20,000 were scheduled to withdraw by the end of that year. The rough parity between ROK troops in South Vietnam and the U.S. forces in South Korea and the ROK-U.S. military partnership in Vietnam lasted almost to the end of the Vietnam War in 1974. Second, amidst the Tet Offensive in the spring of 1968 in Vietnam, and in the transition from U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s exit to the ascendancy of Nixon presidency, there was another turning point in ROK-U.S. relations. Characterized by “self-help” and “Asia for Asians,”1 the Nixon Doctrine initiated three actions in both countries—the creation of a Homeland Reserve Defense Force, the reduction of U.S. forces in Korea by 20,000 from the authorized level of 63,000, and the launching of a $1.5 billion five-year ROK military modernization plan (covering fiscal years 1971-1975). In implementing the withdrawalmodernization program, the two governments inaugurated annual Security Consultative Meetings (SCM) as well as Military Consultative Meetings (MCM) in February 1971 to be attended by their diplomatic and defense officials. 192 Sung Chul Yang 1. The Nixon Doctrine was spelled out in a press conference in Guam on July 25, 1969. The gist of the doctrine is that the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments, providing its nuclear shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of its allies or a nation whose survival is vital to U.S. security, but relegating the primary responsibility of providing manpower for local defense to allies and friends. See http:/ /vietnam. Third, the administration of Jimmy Carter set up the U.S. troop withdrawal timetable—3,600 in 1978; 24,000 in 1979; 9,000 in 1980; and 6,000-7,000 in 1982—but it was not fully observed. The size of U.S. forces in Korea remained at 40,000 and the ROKU .S. Combined Forces Command (CFC), a joint Korean-American military command structure, was inaugurated on November 5, 1978, sidelining the format of the United Nations Command. Fourth, in the period that ended the dark and difficult years of military regimes—from Park Chung Hee through Roh Tae Woo—and the civilian governments—from Kim Young-sam to Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun—a series of structural, institutional , and operational...


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