In his original statement on North Korea, released March 30th Sullivan wrote: “Our first concern must always be our National Security and our national interests, the security of our allies, and the safety of our men and women in uniform. The current force level agreement provides for the presence of just over 28,000 American service personnel in South Korea. Our troops are more than a ‘trip-wire’ — they’re among our finest sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers. We have obligations to the Republic of Korea, but must be clear that our first concern is the well-being of our troops.”
My reading of this statement is that the US should consider removing US troops deployed in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). In his subsequent statement on North Korea he removed this paragraph. Consequently, I am confused on his position. Nonetheless, by even suggesting that the US should withdraw its forces from South Korea, Michael Sullivan had demonstrated his lack of sophistication and understanding vis-a-vis security issues in Northeast Asia. We cannot afford knee-jerk theatrics at such a critical juncture and in such a volatile region. An American military withdrawal from South Korea will send a clear signal not only to elected officials in Seoul and Tokyo who will need to go it alone but more worrisome will be interpreted in Beijing, Pyongyang and Moscow as a retreat from vital American strategic interests. This in turn will undoubtedly embolden these Pacific powers not to mention the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the region.
Sullivan also stated in his release that “I also call on China to do all it can to affect North Korea behavior. Neither China nor the United States have an interest in heightened tensions on the Peninsula. A peaceful, democratic, unified Korea would serve our mutual interests.” This statement again demonstrates his lack of understanding over such a vital region vis-a-vis China whose strategic interests do not include unification of the Korean Peninsula as Beijing believes that would lead to American troop’s on their border. I suggest that the next time the Sullivan campaign wishes to release a statement expressing how disconcerting it is that his fellow GOP candidates (Gomez and Winslow) are ‘silent’ on such an ‘incendiary threat’ he consider the full gravity of his own public pronouncements. I have spent time in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and know all too well what is at stake.