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Policy Experts Call for Strengthening U.S.-ROK Alliance and Korean Reunification ‘End Goal’ for Regional Security and Development

Leading Korea experts in the United States and South Korea said the election of Yoon Suk-yeol as the next president of South Korea, North Korea’s reactivation of missile tests, and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine underscored the need for a strong and credible international security architecture, a recommitment to the US-ROK alliance, and robust support for a free and unified Korea as the ultimate solution for Northeast Asia regional peace and development.

U.S. and ROK policymakers, military leaders, and Korea experts
examined new challenges and opportunities to promote security,
freedom, and prosperity on the Korean peninsula during an April 21
forum. 

U.S. congressional leaders, ROK National Assembly members, Korea experts, North Korean defectors, and U.S. and ROK military leaders expressed support for the incoming administration and guarded hopes for advances in the complex process of reunification during an April 21 virtual forum.

General Vincent Brooks, former commander of the combined Korean and United States forces in the Republic of Korea, called for a strong posture by the ROK – U.S. alliance, militarily, economically, and in international relations.

“North Korea, and I would add others like China and Russia, will seek to weaken the linkage between South Korea and the United States,” Gen. Brooks told the forum. “They will do that by creating issues on matters that should otherwise be resolved. They will do that by putting pressure on matters of security, matters of economy, matters of policy.”

Col. David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces commander and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the president-elect must take a long-term approach to solve the unnatural division of the peninsula and change the focus of the Ministry of Unification to an organization that is “singularly focused on the necessary deep and detailed planning for the unification of Korea.”

The ministry must plan for unification through the four possible paths, he said, “from peaceful unification, through regime collapse and war, to the possibility of emerging new leadership in the north who will seek unification on peaceful terms. The ministry must focus on every aspect of unification from political, economic, health services, and security integration, to culture and language divergence to such basic rights as land ownership and freedom of movement.”

“The only acceptable durable political arrangement that will serve the Korean people and ROK and U.S. interests is the establishment of a United Republic of Korea.”

“The president-elect must recognize that the only way to achieve denuclearization, the elimination of the existential threat from the north, and bring an end to the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity is through unification. The only acceptable durable political arrangement that will serve the Korean people and ROK and U.S. interests is the establishment of a United Republic of Korea that is secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government based on individual liberty, rule of law, free market economics and human rights as determined by the Korean people. In short, a United Republic of Korea.”

Heritage Foundation founder Edwin Feulner said the tragic events in Ukraine and over the past year in Hong Kong and across the Taiwan Strait “have provided a sobering wake up call to learn the lessons of history and to affirm a way forward based on enduring values of freedom. Recent events have also underscored the unquenchable human spirit for freedom in the face of tyranny.”

Strengthening multilateral security 

Six distinguished members of the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly urged China to support peace and create space for cooperation between the two Koreas, at the same time strengthening a multilateral security framework among allies who share the noble values of liberal democracy.

“North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations and Russia's invasion of Ukraine are threatening the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” said Tae Yong Cho. “A strong security posture must be established so that North Korea does not carry out any more armed provocations amid the regime change period of Korean government and the dizzying international situation.”

“We must clearly show the Kim Jong-un regime that reckless provocations, not dialogue and compromise, must pay a price,” said Seong-ho Ji. “A comprehensive strategic alliance that contributes to the peace and prosperity of the international community within a multilateral framework should also be strengthened.”

North Carolina Rep. GK Butterfield, Deputy Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, said it is “critical that we recommit ourselves to an ironclad alliance as regional security issues become more complex, newly presented challenges reshape the globe, and the reckless leader in North Korea now in control of nuclear and ballistic missiles continues to threaten Korea, its neighbors, and the United States. We must also embrace new innovative approaches to chart new paths towards a unified Korea. With the recent election of President-elect Yoon and the upcoming transition of leadership in Korea, this is a great opportunity to consider new thinking and strategies.”

Forum speakers, top: General Vincent Brooks (left), former
commander of the combined Korean and United States forces in the
Republic of Korea; New York Rep. Gregory Meeks (right), chairman of
the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs;
below: Hon. Sung-ho Ji (left), a member of the ROK National Assembly
and a North Korean defector and human rights activist; Dr. Hyun Jin
P. Moon, Founder and Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation

“Emerging and never-before-seen threats and challenges require even closer cooperation and more sustained partnership to ensure shared prosperity and security in the years and decades ahead,” said New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. “This effort includes taking steps to deepen our trilateral cooperation with Japan, enhance plurilateral cooperation to keep the Indo-Pacific free, open, and inclusive, and strive towards the denuclearization of North Korea and a free and unified Korean Peninsula.”

“Intellectual and political leaders in the South behaved as if the continuing division of Korea were a costless proposition,” observed Nicholas Eberstadt, Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute. “No one should ever forget that the continuing division of Korea comes at a very real price. It is being paid every day by North Korea’s captive population.

“A unified Korea that upholds fundamental human rights and values should become the clearly stated and actively pursued policy of ROK’s new Yoon administration, as well as the U.S., allies, and the United Nations. This would provide a clear end goal for Korea policy and a framework for all negotiations with North Korea.”

“The North has a game-plan: and it does not include an indefinite peaceful partition,” Eberstadt said. “South Koreans may be seriously mistaken to assume that continuing division of the peninsula comes at no cost to them. Why do they think Pyongyang is amassing its nuclear arsenal, and building all those missiles?”

Eberstadt urged South Korea and her allies to undertake the hard intellectual work to maximize the odds of a successful Korean reunification, notably economic policy planning entailed in an integration of North and South.” If South Korea and her foreign allies and friends wish to make the peninsula’s eventual reunification an economic success,” he said, “they can get to work today.”

Unified Korea policy framework

Addressing the forum, Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon, Founder and Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation (GPF), condemned Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine and the toll of destruction and human suffering while praising the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people and “resolute and unified” international response.

“Such a decisive defense of freedom, human rights, and self-determination will have far-reaching implications,” he said, “making it clear that these are not merely political positions or national policy, but universal principles necessary to human flourishing that will be vigorously defended.

“The Ukrainian crisis is a rude awakening that should be a catalyst for a bold new approach and clear strategic thinking across the Korean peninsula,” the GPF chairman said. “That should begin with the people of South Korea who enjoy freedom but have become indifferent. Awakened and inspired by the Ukrainian example, they should actively engage in shaping the future of the whole Korean people. 

“A unified Korea that upholds fundamental human rights and values should become the clearly stated and actively pursued policy of ROK’s new Yoon administration, as well as the U.S., allies, and the United Nations. This would provide a clear end goal for Korea policy and a framework for all negotiations with North Korea.”

The forum was convened virtually and in person in Seoul by Global Peace Foundation, One Korea Foundation, Action for Korea United, and the Alliance for Korea United USA.

 

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