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Korean Military Security After Unification

And there went out another horse that was red;

and power was given to him that sat thereon
to take peace from the earth,
and that they should kill one another:
and there was given unto him a great sword.
-Revelations 6:4-

If you want peace, prepare for war

-Latin proverb-

I. Introduction
A. Peace Money
When the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc were in their final death throes in
1990 and 1991, most western observers, like the noted historian Arthur Schlesinger,
were quick to declare the event a victory for the west: `the proponents of liberal society
were proven right. After seventy years of trial, communism turned out - by the
confession of its own leaders - to be an economic, political, and moral disaster.
Democracy won the political argument between the East and the West. The market won
the economic argument'. There were, however, people who begged to differ,
emphasizing the enormous cost the Cold War had exacted upon the adversaries, and
none spoke out for this position more succinctly than George F. Kennan:

Nobody-no country, no party, no person-`won' the Cold War. It was a long and costly
political rivalry, fueled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and
strengths of the other party. It greatly overstrained the economic resources of both countries (i.e.
the US and USSR), leaving both, by the end of the 1980's, confronted with heavy financial, social,
and, in the case of the Russians, political problems that neither had anticipated and for which
neither was fully prepared.

But whatever their respective positions on the final outcome of the Cold War may be,
analysts on both sides would agree that military spending by the superpowers and their
clients, in order to outmatch the capabilities of the other side, was the single factor
contributing to the `constraints' placed upon their national economies, as Kennan points
out in the above statement.

So it was only natural, and correct, for most people to assume that the level of
spending that had once been necessary to maintain Cold War militaries were made
unnecessary, which fueled expectations of massive arms reductions, and subsequent
debates as to how to invest the resulting `peace dividend', estimated at US$58 billion in
1991, back into society. It is the same type of debate that will likely take place in Korea
following unification and the dismantling of the military demarcation line. Considering
that the main rationale behind the arms race for either of the Korean states is the very
presence of the other, proponents of arms reduction will contend that a unified Korea will
not need kind of military budgets like the combined US$13.85 billion (North: $1.35
billion/ South: $12.5 billion) spent in 1999 alone, as there no longer will be a threat of
war in the peninsula.

Although unification will necessitate some type of a reduction in the current 1.74-
million-strong (South and North combined) armed forces, with some of that manpower
placed back into economic production, expectations of a massive arms reduction after
unification and subsequent diversion of the resulting `peace dividend' to the civilian
sector is erroneous, and perhaps even dangerous, given the current and future political
climate in Northeast Asia. It should be noted that Northeast Asia was made dangerous by
virtue of its violent modern history, marked by colonization, military confrontation, and
political ill-will arising thereof. Another, and a very crucial factor, that adds tension to the
region is what I will henceforth refer to as `politics of compensation', namely attempts by
Korea's powerful neighbors (i.e. Japan, China, Russia) to relive the glory they had enjoyed
in the past.

B. Past glories lost

As the particulars of the `glory' that the three regional powers had once enjoyed
will be explained in the section to follow, a brief summary should suffice at this juncture.
The Chinese had been unchallenged in its pre-eminence in the region throughout the
Ming and Qing dynasties, a status that began to slip from them following their defeat to
the western powers, and completely lost after the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5. China
was superseded by Japan as the premier regional power, and the Japanese sought to
mark the region off as its `sphere of influence', exemplified by Fukuzawa Yukichi's claims
of `Asia for the Asians', and the country's attempt to establish the `Greater East Asia Co-
Prosperity Sphere'. However, the grandiose designs the Japanese elite tried to realize
through colonization and war were brought to a crashing halt by their defeat in WWII.
Japan was subsequently forced to relinquish its claims on regional hegemony, and it
naturally led to the American and Soviet ascendancy, and American and Soviet
domination of regional politics for the next four and a half decades.

Northeast Asia, like the rest of the world, became an ideological (and sometimes
actual) battleground for the two superpowers, which emerged as key regional actors by
default. The communist victory in China and the North Korean invasion of the South
became, for the US, a clear attempt by the USSR and its regional clients to expand their
influence in the region. The US responded by establishing a huge military presence in the
area, which drew a response in kind from the Soviet Union, in the form of Soviet Far
Eastern Forces, positioned mostly in the Maritime provinces and the Kamchatka
Peninsula. The actual purpose for stationing of the forces in Northeast Asia
notwithstanding, positioning of these forces was alone an undeniable reminder of Soviet
power for the states in the region, and its formidable presence in the region, presence
which was lost following the collapse and disintegration of the political entity known as
the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Russian Republic, for its part, has not been
able to match the level of regional influence the Soviets once possessed.

C. Getting it back and getting even

All three powers in close geographical proximity with Korea have attained
regional hegemony (shared with the US, in case of the USSR) at one time or another
during the course of the last century and a half, and loss of such dominance is
considered a disgrace and a festering political sore by the Chinese, Japanese, and
Russians alike. It is almost a foregone conclusion that a state that had once been great
and prides itself on glories past will make attempts at their recovery, with expansion of
national power being the obvious method of choice, and military power in particular.
Military power, according to Joseph Nye, is one of the twin factors that constitute `hard
power', and the most explicit manifestation of a nation's capacities. And if recent pattern
of rising military expenditures and capacity of states in the region are any indication, it
can be said they are well-aware of the connection between military capacity and political
influence in the international stage.

There are two factors that make the above-mentioned pattern a troubling trend,
and bode ill for the unified Korean nation-state. The first and obvious one is that military
power has become the chief instrument in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian efforts to
recover or maintain the regional influence they had formerly attained. One does not need
to scrutinize display of Chinese military capabilities in the Spratleys, the level of high-
tech possessed by the JSDF, and Russian maintenance of its massive military-industrial
complex, along with positioning of its latest version ICBM's in the Far East, too carefully
to realize what those three countries are aiming at. The second factor, an extension of
the first and much more dangerous, is the fact that the pace of military build-up in
Northeast Asia is increasing after the formal end of the Cold War, directly contradicting
the trend for the rest of the world.

D. The anarchic region

Moreover, rivalry and enmity accumulated between states in the region as a
result of the its violent history adds to the risk this trend poses for the region, not to
mention the fact that there exists no regional organizations or regimes to temper
conflicts arising from such animosity. In short, the current and future developments in
the region provide a perfect model of the `anarchic international order' expounded by
the realist school of international relations. With the sort of hegemonic peace afforded by
the bipolar Cold War order gone, and waning American influence, there are no checks
upon the ambitions or actions of states in the region save for countervailing action by
other states. The two main actors (US and USSR) now in decline, the primary actors of
the region became individual states, in which it is every state for itself. Without a
'system' to safeguard their borders, or maritime routes vital to their economic interests,
these states now have to fend for themselves, and safeguard their own interests. Never
mind attempts at regional schemes, for they will be ineffective in an area that has, again,
no such tradition. And these individual states, whose interests were made secondary
under the bipolar scheme, are now striving to adjust to this new political environment.

Realizing the regional free-for-all for what it is, these states are now engaged in
unprecedented military build-up to defend their interests and spheres of influence. Past
issues and contending regional interests that were relegated to the backburner during
the Cold war that are now coming to the forefront. This has forced the regional states to
rely on their own strengths to best the other contenders. In this light, the notion that an
area of detente and peace has arrived in East Asia is gravely mistaken indeed, for what
brief peace there was right after the collapse of the Soviet Union is now replaced by a
new era of tension brought about by regional militarism. And I would like to counter
those detractors who claim Northeast Asia will seek a path of cooperation, as the rest of
the world, with words of Reinhold Niebuhr: "Frantic efforts at some of our idealists to
escape this hard reality by drawing up schemes of an ideal world order which have no
relevance to either our present dangers or our urgent duties".

E. Caught in the middle: Korea

If it is true that a state's military capacities enhance perceptions of its power in
the eyes of other states; if it is true that, as Karl Deutsche pointed out, power is the
currency for `getting one's way' in politics; and if it is true that power of a state is
relative of capabilities of other states, Korea faces an acute danger of falling victim
should the three surrounding powers decide to use their (future) enhanced military
capacity for political gain should they be unable to mobilize its military resources to
counter possible uses of `compellent' military power. Power fails to have any meaning if
it does not create `a type of causal relationship in which the power wielder affects the
behavior, attitudes, beliefs, or propensity to act of another actor', to paraphrase David
Baldwin's argument. It is quite unnecessary to mention that the powers that surround the
Korean peninsula hold both a quantitative (PRC, Russia) and qualitative (Russia, Japan)
advantage over both Koreas in terms of military power, and arguably, economic as well.

Therefore, there is little argument that a unified Korean state should not spare
any effort to provide for itself military capacity to meet future challenges imposed by the
changing political environment. However, the argument for improvement of Korean
military capabilities should not be taken as a proposal for quantitative augmentation, for
conflicts in the future will no longer proceed in a manner consistent with wars of the
industrial age, characterized by mass production and mass destruction, as their conduct
will depend less on industrial production and more on technology, and their outcome will
be decided not by mass mobilization of weaponry, but their speed and precision. In
addition, conflicts will most frequently turn out to be skirmishes, fought not by masses of
ground units in large battlefields, but by air and naval units at considerable distance from
their home territories. Expeditious communication and provision of information to the
combatants will be crucial, given the likely frenetic pace of combat by high-speed units
and weaponry.
II. Glories gone by
A. China
The reader will have come up with several questions about this compensation hypothesis
by this point, and the first will no doubt concern the nature of the `glory' that the three
(Japan, China, Russia) are seeking to recover. The answer to this question will require an
elaboration of the region's modern (beginning with the Opium War) history, starting with
the Chinese. Prior to the Opium War, there was little doubt that China (Ming and Qing)
was the pre-eminent power in the region, with a population of 100-130 million by the
fifteenth century (compared to 55 million in all of Western Europe); technological
precocity in the form of gunpowder, the movable type, paper money, the compass,
enormous ironworks created centuries ahead of Europe; a million-man army; a huge
navy with 400-feet ships seaworthy enough to sail to Zanzibar; and a unified
administration run by well-educated bureaucrats, China was a superpower well before
the European explorers set sail.

All of the above attributes were certainly sufficient to ensure hegemonic status
for the Chinese, for no states or peoples in the vicinity were willing to issue challenge to
Chinese power, and all seemed willing to accept the suzerain authority of the Chinese
emperor. A sole hegemon without viable challengers in the region often results in what is
known today as a state of hegemonic stability, where conflicts are tempered by the sheer
disparity of power between the hegemon and the surrounding states. Serious military
threats were nonexistent throughout the Ming, although a revival of Mongol power under
Altan Khan in the early sixteenth century did cause a measure of worry, until the arrival
of the Manchus. China was not only a military but a cultural power as well, with Chinese
classics becoming the standard curriculum for Korean scholars, and Japan's Tokugawa
shoguns adopting Zhuxi Confucianism as ruling ideology shortly after establishing the
bakufu in Edo. Choson's kings and crown princes were not officially recognized as such
until their positions were approved by the emperor in Beijing.

And Chinese power did not decline, but increased under Qing rule, with territories
at one point stretching from the present Maritime provinces to Lake Balkhash, from
Baykal to Yunnan. China's population increased exponentially, reaching 340 million by
the reign of Qing emperor Daogwang. Chinese confidence, combined with traditional
feelings of superiority, had reached its zenith, if Emperor Qianlong's response to Lord
McCartney's British mission in 1793 is any indication. The rest is, of course, history. China
would suffer a series of defeats to the western powers in the Opium War (to the British),
the Second Opium War (British and French), and the Sino-French War. China was forced
to pay huge indemnities and sign one humiliating treaty after another, and its traditional
status as the center of world was lost. China's half-baked attempts at reform never
materialized, and its confidence would be dealt a death blow when its lost even its status
as regional hegemon as a result of its defeat to the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War,
precipitating China's fall to semi-colonial status. China has never been able to regain the
level of regional hegemony ever since, a status they are struggling to regain even to this

B. Japan
Japanese hegemony in Northeast Asia began in the late nineteenth century,
eclipsing China by virtue of their victory in the Sino-Japanese War. But the confidence the
Japanese felt were not necessarily newfound, but were an extension of pre-existing
attitudes, hailing from the time of Arai Hakuseki. An advisor to Ienobu, the sixth
Tokugawa shogun, Hakuseki exclaimed, by citing the Nihon Shoki, that the Japanese
emperor had equal status with the emperor in China and the same went for the shogun
with the Korean king. He went so far as to say that the shogun must use the title <King
of Japan> when referring to himself in diplomatic documents, and added that it was the
height of humiliation for the Korean missions to march into Edo when the Japanese
counterparts had to stop at Tongnae. Old confidence would later merge with the new,
giving rise to a form of expansionism that would come to be known as seikanron, or
Doctrine for the Conquest of Korea, which would become the first step in their eventual
military expansion into Asia.

In turn, the newfound confidence was given life by a national drive to improve
Japanese power, under the slogan of fukoku kyohei, or `rich country, strong army'.
Successful efforts at modernization and expansion of national power would transform
Japan, from `a country destined to remain politically immature, economically backward,
and militarily impotent' into a formidable power that would defeat its former Chinese
suzerain, and even Czarist Russia. Japan had waited, according to a certain Baron named
Hayashi, `for the opportunity in the Orient that will surely come one day. When this day
arrives, Japan will decide her own fate...', and she did, annexing Korea in 1910 and
launching itself into Manchuria, and the Asian mainland, in 1931. As Japan was driving
the Nationalist and Communist Chinese troops deeper into China, no one in East Asia was
in position to challenge her regional supremacy. Japan became a symbol of Asian
audacity (in the eyes of the west), defiance, and strength vis-a-vis the West, and
commanded admiration throughout Asia. The Japanese would designate East Asia as
their `lebensraum', called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and designated
themselves its leaders by dominating the political scene, taking over local economies of
conquered lands, and imposing broad programs of Japanization. A secret study by the
bureaucracy in 1942-3 extolled the destiny of the Japanese as the `leading race' in Asia.
With such attitudes of supremacy came overexpansion, striking at Southeast Asia and
Hawaii. The Japanese Empire at its height would stretch from Burma to Wake Island, from
the Aleutians to New Guinea, but their glory waned and confidence lost in an utter defeat
to the US and allied forces in the WWII. However, with less than two generations from the
end of the war, Japan's former glory is still fresh in the minds of higher echelons of
Japanese society.

C. The end of the Cold War and the decline of Russia

Both Great Britain and the USSR emerged victorious at the end of WWII, but the
similarity ends there. Britain, being the only major state to fight in WWII from beginning
to end, was severely overstrained, not to mention the damage to its industrial base
inflicted by the Luftwaffe. However, with industrial/production bases tucked away behind
the Urals, beyond the reach of German bombers, the Soviets emerged as one of the
premier post-war industrial powers, its economic output outpacing the UK and France
combined by 1950, and closing the gap with the US, and power being relative, the
Soviets decided to use their newfound power to their advantage.

Two main rationales guided the Soviets into East Asia after WWII, the first being
the traditional policy of eastward and southward expansion, a consistent pattern dating
back to Ivan the Terrible's defeat of the Golden Horde. Second, Stalin and other Soviet
leaders saw the necessity of filling power vacuums and replacing them with socialist rule
wherever possible, attested by their refusal of entry by the UNTCOK to the northern part
of the Korean peninsula in 1948. The USSR established itself as the leader of the socialist
bloc, creating socialist governments in its sphere of influence (i.e. Eastern Europe) and
offered support for communist insurgencies (Greece in 1947). The communist victory in
China further bolstered the Soviet position in East Asia, and aroused the fears of a
`monolithic communism' in the west. The USSR offered to the Chinese and North Koreans
advice and military equipment (i.e. MiG-15's during the Korean conflict), created a
Mongolian satellite (albeit before WWII), in addition to designation of Vladivostok as
home port for the Soviet Pacific Fleet, which would represent a full third of all Soviet
naval power by 1988. The USSR also provided the PRC with knowledge to build the
atomic bomb (though all assistance was discontinued in June, 1959), and the Soviet
Union clearly emerged as patron, mentor, and leader for the East Asian communist

For the US, the Soviet leadership among East Asia's communist states
represented a grave threat, and responded by establishing military presence in three
countries (ROK, Japan, Philippines), in addition to its territory in Guam. The Seventh Fleet
established Yokusuka, Japan, as its home port in Asia. Though the stationing of American
forces in Asia also had the Chinese threat as one of its reasons, there was a crack in the
facade of `monolithic communism' following Sino-Soviet border clash and political split in
1969, precipitating the Nixon's 1972 visit to China and Sino-American rapprochement.
But although the US nominally succeeded in enlisting the Chinese against the Soviet
Union, it did not materialize in the form of decline of Soviet influence in Asia, maintaining
a Far Eastern Force of up to 58 divisions (in 1988), and establishing a ballistic submarine
base in Petropavlovsk, in the Kamchatka peninsula, a kind of military presence that no
state in the region could take lightly. It would suffice to say that although the USSR did
not become the sole hegemon in East Asia, it shared such status with the US, and its
semi-hegemony in East Asia collapsed along with the disintegration of the USSR in 1991.

III. The Realist Logic in East Asia: from system to Anarchy

A. The Maneuvering
The Cold War regime in Asia was that of a bipolar system, in which two
unquestioned superpowers held sway over the region, namely the US and the USSR. It
was a system which Kenneth Waltz described as "the reciprocal control of the two
strongest states by each other out of their mutual antagonism.....each is very sensitive to
the gains of the other". The disparity of power between those superpowers and other
regional states were so great, the US and USSR was able to force its policy schemes upon
Asia. They vied for hegemony in the region and projected their influence upon the region,
and indeed, many of the great political events in Asia during the Cold War were direct or
indirectly related to their mutual attempts to prevent the other from achieving
hegemony. The security and military policies of individual states depended less upon
their own needs than on the military maneuvering of these two superpowers. In this
system, the primary actors were the two hegemons, and all other interests held by the
regional states were made secondary concerns in this grand, bipolar scheme.

The system seemed to be mollifying into a "tripolar" system described by Ronald

Yalem as a result of the Sino-Soviet split. Again, the US attempted to take advantage of
this situation by allying itself with China to keep Soviet power in check in Asia, a clear
indication of two powers coalescing against the remaining other. The PRC however, did
not have military or industrial might to be considered a world power to really effect the
bipolar scheme, and the bipolar system essentially continued during the eighties in the
form of a "new Cold War" brought about by Ronald Reagan's "peace with strength"
policy. Indeed what the US and the USSR feared the most was "being at each other's
mercy", continued to seek a balance of power in the region, utilizing every technological
and military power at their disposal. China, for its part, sought to play the role of
`balancer' between the two superpowers, aligning itself with the United States when it
seemed weak (1970's), and shifting to an equidistant policy in the 1980's as US power
resurged and Soviet economic power declined.

However, a new environment was introduced into East Asia as a result of Deng's
reform in China and Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika. PRC set upon the road
towards market reform, but Gorbachev's policies eventually turned out to be a pandora's
box that eventually brought about the end of the Soviet empire. The collapse of the
Soviet Union meant that there was no longer a bipolar system in the region. But the US,
burdened by military expenditures and federal deficits, was forced to reduce its military
budget by $30 billion over the nine-year period from 1990 to 1999, and was unable to
step forward as the foremost hegemon in the region. The two main actors now in
decline, the primary actors of the region became individual states, which means an era
of anarchy arrived, in which it's every state for itself.

Although economic power might serve as the basis of national power, the surest
demonstration of state power is its military machine. No amount of economic power can
achieve the kind of gains that can be made in one swift military maneuver, and economic
power is useless unless backed by military might. According to Samuel Huntington, rapid
economic growth and rising confidence of Asian societies are disruptive to international
politics in at least two ways. The economic development enables the regional powers to
expand on their military capabilities, promotes uncertainty in future relations between
them, and brings to the fore issues and rivalries that had been suppressed by Cold War
politics. With the bipolar system gone, no one has more interests to defend then Japan,
engaging in greater military build-up AFTER the Cold War. But because of the historical
past and regional fears of a resurgent Japan, this is inducing military build-up of other
countries, especially China. That in turn has elicited military build-up of Taiwan, since
China never relinquished their policy of "taking the island by force". South Korea, always
vigilant of the communist threat from the north, is now realizing that it is not only North
Korea, but other countries that she might have to defend her interests against, and the
reasons for this military build-up is clear: they are trying to secure their interests, for
according to Hans Morgenthau, "interest, indeed, is the last word in politics". They no
longer feel safe in this new environment, and the only thing a state can rely on in a
balance of power structure is its own power. Now that each individual states are the main
actors in East Asia, they are "necessarily seeking safety by relying on its own power and
viewing with alarm the power of its neighbors", as stated by Frederick L. Schumann.

Among East Asian states, there are three dimensions involved in their disputes
with each other: Nationalism, territorial disputes, and historical enmity. The division of
Korea and China into two states are also factors that make the East Asian situation
precarious. Economic prosperity is bound to lead to national confidence, which in turn
converts to nationalism. In an economically prosperous region such as East Asia, there is
nationalism aplenty. But nationalism does not manifest itself alone, but often becomes
intertwined with other points of dispute. One such dispute is with various territories that
lie precariously on disputed maritime borders, such as Tokdo, Diaoyutai (Sengaku), and
the Paracels (The dispute over the Spratleys is more of a military power play by the
Chinese than an earnest dispute). The dispute over these islands has generated much
public furor and fanned flames of anti-Japanese nationalism in Korea and China, with
protests to remember Japanese atrocities during WWII. The level of nationalism
generated was unprecedented, as demonstrated by death of David Chan, leader of a
Chinese protest contingent from Hong Kong in protest against Japan at Diaoyutai, which
created a martyr for Chinese nationalism.

What exacerbates such build-up and conflict is the fact that there is no
organized body to mediate them. In comparison, the European continent is bound by an
incredibly dense array of international institutions, which includes: the EU, NATO,
Western European Union, Council of Europe, the OSCE, and others. An `international
society' (In the British sense of the word), has not existed in East Asia. East Asia has no
regional body except the ASEAN, which does not include any major power, and has
generally eschewed security and military issues. APEC, a new and seemingly
comprehensive organization, has not been able to wield much influence, and is much
weaker compared with ASEAN. There is no international institution that can bring the
principle powers of East Asia together. The UN might be there, but its influence is
questionable, since it is not a region-specific body. This absence of a mediating body
redoubles the sense of insecurity felt by East Asian countries, and the arms race

Of course, when a hegemonic power declines and leaves a power vacuum, there
are always attempts at power transition, where another power decides to fill the gap.
This is what's being attempted by both Japan and China. Realizing that economic power
does not ensure political influence, Japan has been engaged in extensive military build-
up since the 1970's and now possesses the most technologically advanced military
power in the region, with politicians like Ozawa and Hashimoto openly calling for a
greater political role for Japan, and there are fears of Japan seeking to revive the
"Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere". But in a balance of power structure such
attempts do not go unchallenged, for others try to match power with power. China has
been turning over the fruits of its economic success to modernize its armed forces, and
its is also seeking regional dominance, as can be seen in its claims toward the Paracels
and the Spratleys. But there is not yet a hegemonic power in the region, in other words,
no one "reigns supreme" over the region. Any attempt by any state in the region to
emerge as a regional hegemon will be held in check by other countries who fear such
dominance, on which I would like to quote Schumann one more time, "viewing with alarm
the power of its neighbor".

This is the background of the general trend towards military build-up in East Asia.
The hegemons that presided over a bipolar system have weakened, and the states in the
region are now facing the reality of safeguarding their own interests. According to
Nicholas Spykman, states exist because they are strong or have other states protecting
them. In the bipolar scheme, it was definitely the latter. But there were contending
regional interests that were put on the backburner during the Cold war that are now
coming to the forefront. This has forced the regional states to rely on their own
strengths, regarding it their policy of choice in besting the other contenders. In this light,
the notion that an era of detente and peace has arrived in East Asia is gravely mistaken
indeed, for what brief peace there was right after the collapse of the Soviet Union is now
replaced by a new era of tension brought about by regional militarism. To say that
economic interdependence alone is enough to assuage fears that these states have of
each other is simply mistaken, for it is always politically lucrative to establish hegemony
over a region. Such attempts at hegemony among the regional states is the very factor
that drives the balance of power structure in East Asia, trying to keep each other from
being hegemons in the first place. I would like to counter such naivete of
interdependence proponents by quoting Reinhold Niebuhr one more time: "frantic efforts
at some of our idealists to escape this hard reality by drawing up schemes of an ideal
world order which have no relevance to either our present dangers or our urgent duties".
Although Niebuhr was referring to the idealists in the US, he speaks for East Asia as well.
It is safe to say an era of earnest power balance has arrived in Asia.

B. The Ex-hegemons
Following the decline of the Soviet Union, the Russian Far East forces were
initially reduces reduced. But when Yeltsin survived two coup attempts because of
military support, he promptly halted any cuts in the military budget, since they were
essential for maintaining his power. Also, Russia was forced to seek its fortune in the
Pacific region when it was clear it would be excluded from EU or any sort of Western
European regime. It seems to be prudent economic move, since East Asia possesses
large foreign exchange reserves that could be utilized for its development of Siberia. In
recent years Russia has been attempting to regain its lost status in the region, and
revamped its Far East Forces with modern weaponry so that it continues to be a
'presence" in the region.

Decades of security burden and strains it caused the US economy is the primary
justification for US retreat from the region. But a more isolationist EU bloc will prohibit
any American attempts to make new inroads there economically, so East Asia will remain
its principal economic partner. The US now has reconfigured its role as a 'mediator' and
not a dominator of the region, for it fears a sudden US pull out will trigger a dangerous
military competition in the region due to pre-existing conflicts and interests. The US is
likely to maintain its security agreements with various countries, in order to "keep a foot"
in the region, calculating that Asian states with US troops on its soil will not engage in
direct military conflicts because it might involve the US-as a mediating factor. For those
reasons, the US is likely to maintain a military presence until a successful power
transition occurs where an Asian power capable of matching US military might emerges
to maintain a new order, or a true multipolar structure on a European model is created.
But the US and Russia alike are now regional contenders just like the any other country
in the region, because they are no longer as strong as they used to be, coupled with the
fact that the power of East Asian states has risen considerably. To reiterate a point made
by Kenneth Waltz, there is not enough power disparity between the regional powers and
the US/Russia to maintain the bipolar scheme of the past.
IV. The Plea for Korea
A. Soldiers and more soldiers
The balance of power seem to be the future trend for the East Asia, so what
should Korea do in such an environment? The US is no longer willing to maintain the level
of forces it did during the Cold War, and past Korean reliance on an American security
framework means that South Korea must consider serious revision of its security policy.
Now, do we keep our security policies focused on North Korea and hope that US will take
care of our regional defense needs? Do we wish for China or Japan to become 'good
neighbors' even after they establish hegemony over the region? The answer is a
resounding NO! In a balance of power scheme, Korea cannot assume that our `neighbors'
today will remain so in the future. There are no such thing as a genuine ally or neighbor
in a balance of power scheme, only competing states whom we should try to best in
political competition, and the only thing we can rely on is our own power.

The ideological confrontation that dominated politics in the Korean peninsula

have left its mark militarily as well, and the percentage of the population in uniform
expended for military purposes is telling evidence of the fact. It is only natural that states
located in a politically tense region or facing hostile states will maintain militaries
commensurate to the level of threat they perceive, and both Koreas exhibit a pattern
consistence with other states in similar situations. Case in point, Iraq is located in a
region that has known little peace throughout modern history (Middle East) and facing a
hostile neighbor (Iran) at the same time. The same goes for Taiwan, facing a giant
communist power (PRC) which has made it clear that any declaration of formal
independence by the island state will not be tolerated, and Israel, facing enemies that
have vowed to drive the Jewish state `into the sea'. The figure for Iraq stands at 4.9%,
while 1.78% percent of the Taiwanese and 3.06% of the Israeli population are in arms.
Although 1.78% may not strike anyone as a large figure, considering that the percentage
for states with comparable populations, like Canada, is at a mere quarter of a percent,
the ratio basically demonstrates the kind of threat Taiwan feels it needs to prepare itself

Coming back to Korea, 4.71% of the entire North Korean population currently
serve in the KPA, and 1.41% of all South Koreans in the country's national army. The
figure for North Korea is one of the highest in the world, and the numbers for South
Korea is also unusually high relative to countries with comparable populations. Hostility
and distrust still remain the two Koreas as a result of the Korean ROK constitution has
designated the DPRK government an `illegal organization', while North Koreans
frequently makes use of the term `puppet regime' to deride the Seoul government, a
clear demonstration of the unwillingness to accept each other as legitimate state
entities, also a factor that contributes to the high percentage. Excluding such hostility
and ideological confrontation, the factor that stands out most explicitly is the heavy
emphasis placed on the ground forces (82% of total for ROK; 87% for DPRK), an
understandable phenomenon, taking into account the likely mode of warfare in case of
conflict in the Korean peninsula. Both Koreas clearly feel that decisive battles will be
fought on the ground and prepared likewise, with absence of any strategic weaponry
(North Korea's ballistic missiles being an important exception).

B. The case against general reduction

1. To be great once more: politics of compensation
The states engaged in the arms race described above have one unequivocal
goal: regional hegemony. Starting with China, it is precipitated by China's need to
redefine its role in world affairs after the value of the `China card' in East Asia was lost,
and its policymakers have set two goals in that regard. First, to become the core state
and civilizational magnet towards which all other Chinese communities (i.e. Greater
China) would orient themselves, and second, to resume its historical position, which was
lost in the nineteenth century, as the hegemonic power in East Asia. China's huge
population, awesome military power, economic bulk, and international influence (i.e.
permanent seat in the UNSC) adds up to leave the rest of the region perpetually
perturbed. Another factor facilitating such a move by China is the emergence of an entity
known as `greater China' from a cultural and economic community into a political one.
What's more, many are predicting that China will supersede the US as the next
superpower (although it may be too early to tell), and its rise as the premier power in
East Asia is taken virtually as a given, if Murray Weidenbaum's following assessment is

Despite the current Japanese dominance of the region, the Chinese-based economy of
Asia is rapidly emerging as a new epicenter of industry. This strategic area contains substantial
amounts of technology and manufacturing (Taiwan), outstanding entrepreneurial, marketing, and
services acumen (Hong Kong), a fine communications network (Singapore), a tremendous pool of
financial capital (all three), and very large endowments of land, resources, and labor (mainland

However, it seems that a little too much attention has been given to China's
recent growth, for China was already a formidable manufacturing power even before the
arrival of Mao Zedong's communist regime. In addition, the PRC has achieved a
consistent, five to six percent annual growth in its GNP since 1952, including the
disastrous Great Leap Forward Period, noticed one observer in 1984. If this assessment is
indeed true, it means that Deng's reform merely accelerated an ongoing process, and by
1999, the Chinese economy was nearly 11 times larger than it had been in 1949. A
power as proud and ambitious as China will naturally seek to translate such growth into
military power, which, of course, is the ultimate instrument of political influence. The
particulars of China's military build-up will be mentioned in the following section, but her
increasing assertiveness has not gone unnoticed, as US Marine general Anthony Zinni
has commented at an Army Science Board meeting off-handedly, that America's "long-
standing Europe-centric focus" probably would shift in coming decades as policymakers
"pay more attention to the Pacific Rim, and especially to China."

China has not been subtle, and has been, in fact, very vocal in its attempt to
assert itself in the region. The most visible signs of its muscle-flexing were made
manifest in the row over the Paracels and the Spratleys, as China's naval strategists are
moving away from their traditional focus on coastal defense to securing maritime
interests. The Chinese navy inflicted considerable losses to the Vietnamese forces in a
skirmish around the islands in January 1988, and unilaterally incorporated the islands as
its `29th province' in March of same year. Furthermore, it claimed that there would be no
negotiations concerning the islands, and completely ignored the claims of other states in
the vicinity. President Jiang Zemin's symbolic donning of a Mao suit during his state visit
to Japan to protest Japanese attitudes concerning past atrocities, and firing its missiles to
intimidate the Taiwanese for Pres. Lee Teng-hui's visit to the US were also evidence that
the PRC will not let its voice go unheard in the international scene. In the longer run,
many American policymakers expect China to emerge sooner or later as a great power
with significant influence over the rest of Asia. That, along with a spate of belligerent
statements about Taiwan from Chinese officials has helped focus the attention of top
policymakers on China's possible military ambitions. Analysts like Abraham Schulsky of
the Rand Corp. states succinctly that, "The Chinese saber-rattling has gotten people's
attention, there's no question of that."

But if the situation in East Asia is as tense as I have mentioned in Section III, than
Japan is not going to stand by with folded arms while China asserts itself. There are
those who doubt resurgent Japanese militarism on the basis of changing of the guard
among the politicians, the effete new generation who is not willing to fight in a war, and
aging society, which will increase future social security burdens. I have already
mentioned that the unrepentant attitude of the old politicians have been taken up by
these new generation of politicians in power now. One such politician is former PM
Hashimoto Ryutaro, who heads the parliamentary group that pays homage to Yasukuni
temple. What Hashimoto advocates is a Japan that can play a leadership role in Asia,
since Japan contributes to its development by supplying a great percentage of the ODA
for the region.The ex-Japanese PM wants Japan to play a political role commensurate with
its economic bulk, pointing out Japan's $13 billion contribution to the Gulf War allies and
her subsequent exclusion from Kuwait's reconstruction. Ozawa Ichiro is another example
who project a similar views Japan as an overdeveloped economy but a disproportional
lack of political, social, and military aspects, a `state out of balance'. Ishihara Shintaro,
Tokyo governor and the author of <Japan that can say NO>, claimed that Japan's colonial
rule was actually beneficial for those colonized and that US military's reliance on
Japanese technology is a testament to Japanese power. The attitudes displayed by these
new generation are not a simple continuation of old attitudes, but such an attitude
merged with new confidence generated by Japan's status as an economic superpower.
East Asia has good reason to be weary of the fact that these people are not the only
three with such positions, for it is the newest 'trend' in Japanese politics (Politicians like
Hosokawa were notable exceptions).

Statements from Japan's postwar leaders also warrant our attention. Since there
are so many of these statements, I will list a few significant ones that exhibit
expansionistic attitudes:

Yoshida Shigeru: 1. We must follow Ito Hirobumi and plant down our roots in Korea
2. (Speech at inauguration of JSDF) : You must serve as a firm basis
for a new national army.

Ono Bamboku: It would be nice to form a "United States of Japan" along with
Taiwan and South Korea

Ikeda Hayato: We have to make new efforts to penetrate into Korea

Shiina Etsusaburo: If one insists on calling our dream of uniting the five
races (오족협화) then I would like to say it was glorious

Nakasone Yasuhiro: The valiant souls who died for Asia will be displeased
if Japan is ostracized from the rest of Asia

These statements exhibit nonrepentence and justification of their past

imperialism, and Japanese intentions to dominate Asia as a regional power. Also, the LDP
formed an intraparty fraternity called the "The Org. for National Essence', and continue
to support right-wing organizations such as the kokuryu-kai (Black Dragon Society) and
the Yakuza.These groups continue to maintain the nationalist voice in society, and
sometimes engage in terrorism against political opponents, as can be witnessed in the
1960 assassination of Right JSP Chairman Asanuma Inejiro by a right wing student.
Feeling confident in its abilities of the JSDF, Prime Minister Suzuki Senko openly stated
that Japan was ready to defend the 1000-nautical mile sea lane, way beyond Japan's
territorial waters. If these were simply ravings by older generation of politicians, then we
have nothing to fear. But the new politicians who have taken over the political mantle
continue to display similar attitudes.

Ozawa Ichiro, former head of the Sakigake, is the most visible of the younger
politicians. Although he talks about coming to terms with the past, it is motivated his
visions of Japan's future grandeur, that Japan cannot be a world power tied down by
these past issues. What he aims for is a so-called "normal state", a state replete with
political and military power to go along with its economic bulk, and not just an economic
power represented in the term "Japan Inc." Ishihara Shintaro and Morita Akio openly
defied US influence over Asia in "A Japan that can say NO". Hashimoto Ryutaro advocates
in his <Vision of Japan> that Japan needs to desist from the role of a financial
contributor, like it did with the $13 billion aid to the allies in the Gulf as well as their ODA
for other Asian countries, but needs to secure political power proportional with its
economic strength, along with his advocation of visits to the Yasukuni temple. The more
things change, the more things stay the same, and judging from the attitude of these so-
called "new" upper echelons of Japanese society, they are definitely changing for the

Money is not the only thing Japan can utilize in achieving its political ends.
Realizing that economic power is negligible unless supported by military strength, Japan
decided to secure an international role for the JSDF by participating in UN Peacekeeping
Operations, and established a pretext for overseas dispatching of the JSDF in the future,
which is forbidden under the constitution. Looking at the PKO from Japan's security
perspective, her first earnest action overseas occurred in Southeast Asia, which is not a
coincidence. Japan needed to safeguard the sea lanes for its supply of natural resources
ever since the 1930's, or I should say the 1890's. Petroleum is a lifeblood for modern
industry, and the Persian Gulf supplies most of the Japan's petroleum needs. Those
tankers have to pass through either Straits of Malacca and Sunda, so securing of these
two maritime passageways is of paramount concern for Japan. Should these strategic
passageways be closed off to Japan, the only option left for Japan would be to remilitarize
and secure them for itself. Moreover, the Japanese government has been steadily
resurrecting nationalistic symbols that were once discarded. The flying of the hinomaru
(the rising sun flag) and singing the kimigayo-wa (national anthem) was reinstated to
public schools in the recent years. A 1988 survey showed that 65% of people would
support the JSDF or take up arms themselves to defend Japan, and only 7.2% thought the
disbanding of the JSDF was necessary. Even during the debate over PKO participation,
there was an initial 58% opposition by the public that turned into 74% support after six
months. Even the JSP is aware of these trends, and is tilting towards agreement with the
conservatives to the constitutionality of the JSDF, which it always claimed was

Russia's fall from grace from East Asia's pecking order was as sudden as the
collapse of the Soviet empire, and has been unable to regain its former prominence, due
to political instability and economic hardships. However, it has more than demonstrated
its refusal to fade away from the East Asian scene. Though it was nonetheless forced to
reduce the size of its Far Eastern forces, the forces received a qualitative boost, with the
latest weaponry in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War, a trend that
continues to this day. Russia has already announced in its discomfort with American
attempts to dominate the region's security issues, in the form of unequivocal opposition
to the Theater Missile Defense scheme And just as the PRC played the `China card'
against the USSR during the Cold War, Russia has the `Russia card' to play against its
rivals, for a Russian-Chinese alliance would decisively tilt the Eurasian balance against
the West. From the Russian viewpoint, this warming of relations represents both a
conscious decision to work with China as its Asian partner, given the stagnant coolness of
its relations with Japan, and reaction to conflicts with the West over the expansion of
NATO, economic reform, arms control, economic assistance, and membership in western
international institutions.

2. The East Asian military build-up: in a dangerous neighborhood

There is no argument that the military tension that has dominated politics in the
Korean peninsula will be alleviated in case of unification, and will no doubt be a cause for
celebration among the `doves', seeing it as an opportunity to divert funds used for
military build-up into economic development, social services, education, etc. Such
argument will find justice in the fact that a confrontation between two hostile states was
the primary rationale for the arms race in the peninsula, and that a large military
establishment will be rendered unnecessary in a single Korean nation-state. But as I have
stated repeatedly in this paper, any attempts at unilateral reduction on Korea's part will
likely place the unified peninsula in harm's way, not only because of the unstable
situation in Northeast Asia, but such instability combined with political ambitions of the
regional powers, not to mention the military build-up in the region motivated by the
needs of the regional powers to `compensate' for their past glories lost.
The world saved approximately US$140 billion in military expenses from the
period extending from the end of the Cold War in 1990 to 1994, with expenditures on all
the major regions of the globe, including strife-ridden Africa, undergoing reduction during
the same period. However, as can be seen from the following chart, East Asia remained a
glaring exception from this global trend.

(in US$billion)
REGION 1985 Expenditure 1993 Expenditure
Asia-Pacific 99.0 144.7
USA 339.2 297.3
Europe 231.9 201.7
Russia and CIS 157.7 86.3
Middle East 100.9 57.9
The Americas(w/out USA) 28.8 26.1
Africa 9.8 8.8
The world 967.4 823.0

The military build-up in East Asia did not let up after 1993. In a balance of power system
there is no there is no legally and politically superior authority, the power of the state
becomes the ultimate arbiter. The protection of the nation-state's security and interests
become paramount. The power of the state, I say again, is best represented by its
military machine, its capability to inflict violence on others. For example, the North
Korean economy is in utter ruin, but everyone treads lightly around North Korea because
it has enough military capability to inflict serious damage on South Korea. Although the
probability of East Asian countries going to full-scare war is low, the is fair possibility of a
limited conflict or skirmishes from territorial disputes, and the countries in East Asia are
acquiring battle-tested and effective, high-tech weapons systems for such eventuality.
These include improvement of Air and Naval forces, combat data systems,
communications, and electronics warfare. Most of the revamping is concentrated around
the air and naval forces, along with transport/logistics for rapid troop deployment, in
order to project power beyond their border.

Japan has been engaged in military buildup beyond defensive capabilities ever
since the Third Defense Reorganization period (1967-71). After establishing their "Grand
Plan for Defense", the JSDF saw massive increase during the tenure of prime ministers
Suzuki and Nakasone, whose policies dovetailed with Reagan's slogan of "strong
America". Their buildup continues after the Soviet collapse and the end of Cold War, for
greater political role in the region (and the world). But noting that other East Asian
countries might be weary of its buildup, the size of the SDF was left alone at 240000 to
make it look diminutive in comparison to other military establishments in the region.
Most of the buildup centered around its Air and Maritime SDF, especially on developing or
procuring high-tech weaponry. Considering that a powerful navy is an important tool of
power projection, refitting it with advanced weaponry such as an Aegis cruisers, with
completely automated combat data system that was built to be command center for a
larger fleet including an aircraft carrier (Japan does not possess it as of yet, but probably
will in the future) is testimony enough of its future intentions. Other weapons of power
projection include other naval vessels possessing equal capability with US ships; KC-135
Stratotanker and an E-3C Sentry AWACS, to give its squadrons of F-15 fighters greater
combat capability and operational range; and Patriot anti-aircraft missile, the best in anti-
ballistics technology. It is coupled by Japanese technical capability that already started
producing home-made weapons system in the sixties, now engaged in the development
of the FSX fighter, designed to defeat all other known fighters in a dogfight with its short
turn radius. Also, the JSDF is structured around officers and NCO's, with 75% (180695 out
of 273810 in 1996) of service members in the JSDF above that rank of sergeant, and
considering that NCO's will naturally form the core of the JSDF should conscription be
necessary, which would increase the size of the forces three-to-four-fold, and a 1.2
million JSDF is definitely a possibility.

All in all, Japan already possesses a formidable military establishment, and its
potential capabilities are limitless, considering the level of technology it possesses. Japan
has accumulated enough technology to provide the US with the high-tech equipment for
US armaments and ordnance used in Operation Desert Storm. Japan is also producing the
F-15 under license at a Mitsubishi plant in Nagoya, and begun joint production of the F-2
fighter, considered better than the Strike Eagle. Japan is able to construct the Aegis
cruiser with domestic manpower only at Nagasaki. And while it does not possess
strategic forces at the moment, Japanese rocket/ballistics know-how, like the H-2 rocket,
and its fairly recent importation of plutonium from France is clear indication that they
possess sufficient technology to create such capabilities. Defense analysts such as Sato
Seisaburo has stated that Japan would be able to produce nuclear weapons in a mere six
months, should she find it necessary.

China always had the largest military establishment in the world due to its large
ground forces, but was never acknowledged as an earnest military power. Besides, large
ground forces are usually intended more for domestic security than for battling in foreign
territory. Without modern armaments and reduction of ground forces, there was no way
for China to become a military superpower. However, with foreign exchange acquired
from its economic growth, it had military budget enough to modernize its outdated
armaments, and the modernization effort is concentrating on its air and naval forces, as
well as ballistics technology. The old submarines were replaced by six Han-class and two
Xia-class boats, and each are nuclear-powered and capable of delivering 12 SLBM's each.
Its missile attack boats are being replaced by Jianghu-class frigates, with operational
range of 4000 miles, Luda-class destroyers fitted with modern anti-ship and anti-aircraft
missiles, in addition of planned purchase of Sovremenyy-class destroyers from Russia.
The PRC Navy has already purchased the Russian Kilo-636 submarines, and signed
another contract for procurement of 7000-ton destroyers. However, its construction of
6000-ton Luhai-class destroyers demonstrate a measure of technical aptitude.

Its air force was revamped with Russian-built SU-27 fighters and Hong-7
supersonic bombers, built with domestic technology, to eventually replace its squadrons
of ancient MiG's. In addition, the PRC constructed a state-of the-art air force training
facility in Inner Mongolia to test its newest crop of fighters (J-10, J-12, JH-7), all developed
with local technology. Knowing that it has lacked power projection capacity, as well as
ability to respond quickly to contingencies, as a superpower should, it has created an
earnest attack helicopter squadrons, and organized eight army divisions into its rapid
deployment force. China has also constructed the Dongfeng-31 missile, which is
accurate, mobile, and has nuclear capability. The Dongfeng warhead detaches from the
booster in its last flight stage, putting the effectiveness of the latest Patriot SAM systems
in doubt (which might have alarmed the US into considering creation of a National Missile
Defense system).

As for the US and Russia, there are no prospects for the reduction of their forces in the
forseeable future. After halting the general reduction, the Russian Far East forces were
re-equipped with modern armaments including the T-80 tanks, along with MiG-29 SMT's
for the air force, and VTOL SU-33's for its naval aviation. Although the ballistic missile
submarine base at Petropavlovsk has been closed, the main naval base at Vladivostok in
still in full operation, as well as the formidable Pacific Fleet, recently bolstered by such
vessels as the 25000-ton nuclear missile cruiser Peter The Great, armed with the latest
Yakhunt ship-to-ship missiles. Quantitative reduction coupled with qualitative
improvement is also a pattern applicable to Russia's handling of its strategic forces, as
can be seen in its elimination of old missiles, to be replaced by new ones such as the
TOPOL-M. Although the US was forced to leave Subic Bay and Clark AFB in the Philippines
when the Philippines senate refused to renew the lease for these bases, the US still
maintains sizable military forces in the area, and the US Seventh Fleet remains the most
powerful naval force in the region. In light of that fact, we can surmise that US still
dominates the vital sea routes which serve as lifelines of east Asian economies. These
Russian and American troops in Asia are now political levers that can be utilized to
maintain the balance of power, since no state in the region seem capable of militarily
outstripping US and Russia any time soon. The continued stationing of the USFK in Korea
as a political card against DPRK or the intervention by the Seventh Fleet against PRC
during the Chinese intimidation of Taiwan are examples of what purposes these troops
might serve in the future.

3. Be there woe for the unprepared

Those who are not convinced of the vital necessity of military preparations after
unification by this point will emphasize the 1.74 million service members in arms a
unified Korean state would possess. Besides, so many people in arms will not strike
anyone as weak, which would mean a second-largest military force in the world, at least
in quantity. So what it is about future conflicts that leads one to hypothesize that the
forces will be `unprepared'? For one thing, terrestrial `frontiers' that previously
separated East Asia's ideological camps are gone, replaced by the seas surrounding the
states as major areas of contention, meaning that armed forces of the respective states
will need to operate over larger area, and longer distances. Huge ground forces meant to
be of advantage in land battles will be of little use, and the outcome will be decided by
superior air and naval forces. The Korean peninsula remains one of the last vestiges of
the Cold War, a fact reflected in military composition and strategy of both Korean states,
that make both North and South Korean forces ill-equipped and ill-composed for future
contingencies. An observation of the current state and composition of both South and
North Korean armed forces will show that both Korean states are woefully unprepared for
future warfare.


Ground Force (Total: 1.48 million)
Divisions 104
Regiments 120
Tanks 6050 (M-48, M-60, K-1, T-34, T-55, T-60, T-80)
APC's 4600
Artillery 16850
Helicopters 900

Combat vessels 610

Support vessels (inc. landing craft) 280
Submarines 100
Aircraft 60
Navy (Total: 114000)

Air Force (Total: 151000)

Fighters/Bombers 1350
Special (Reconnaissance, ECW, etc.) 40
Support (Transport, trainer, etc) 710
Helicopters 350

One facts that stands out upon review of the above charts is that there is a clear
emphasis on the ground forces. Both North and South Korea clearly felt and expected
decisive land battles and prepared likewise, resulting in a land force almost the size of
the entire US armed forces. Likewise, the clear lack of strategic weaponry (except
ballistic missiles) or bombers indicate that the Air Force will be relegated to a secondary
role of supporting ground forces in the battlefield, limiting itself to tactical maneuvers.
Fortunately, thanks to Soviet doctrine that dictates concentration of artillery at the front,
the number of field artillery is quite formidable, many of them with ranges up to 40
miles. On the other hand, with landward invasion from the surrounding powers into Korea
highly unlikely, unified Korea's ground forces probably will not see combat in any future
conflict, and virtually useless in converting the present passive defense strategy to a one
of positive defense to safeguard the nation's interest at great distance from the home

Aircrafts that will comprise the unified Korean Air Force will be equally unsuitable
as the ground forces, simply because most of them do not have long-range combat
capability, and there are no KC-135's or other tanker aircraft that can extend a fighter's
operational range in the inventory. Also, a great majority of the aircraft will be obsolete,
due to their antiquated design and inability to carry long-range, air-to-air missiles. The
MiG-15's and 17's were constructed in the 1950's, and lack the radars necessary to guide
air-to-air missiles, and while F-4 Phantoms are able to carry a fair amount of payload, its
original design as a fighter/bomber for ground support will not allow them to operate
against maritime targets. It is also doubtful whether these vintage aircrafts will be able to
penetrate advanced radar and early-warning systems found in the high-tech opponents
such as the fleet of Japanese Kongo-class cruisers, or aircraft like the E-3 Sentry's and
Russian Mainstay's. Although the highly maneuverable MiG-21's and F-16's are
considered excellent `dogfighters', they are unable to pose significant danger to enemy
aircraft armed with long-range AAM's. The MiG-23's and MiG-29's, the only fighters with
either long-range or all-aspect missiles, are not numerous enough (30 in case of MiG-
29's), and will not be a match for opponents such as 180 F-15's of the Japanese ASDF.

The situation is scarcely better upon an observation of Korea's naval forces. The
North Koreans have been shying away from developing actual combat vessels for naval
engagement, and has concentrated on construction of hovercrafts and modifying fishing
vessels for infiltration, and the largest ship it can contribute to the unified Korean navy is
the 1600-ton frigate Soho. Otherwise, the North Korean fleets were basically designed for
guerilla warfare in the seas, relying on Osa-class missile boats armed with SS-N-2C Styx
missiles (with huge 512-kg warheads), clearly intended for hit-and-run mission in Korea's
jagged coastline. South Korea will contribute less numbers of ships, but will add more
tonnage, although certainly not its aging fleet of Gearing-class frigates and Allen
Sumner-class destroyers. Although construction of modern destroyers (KDX) have been
under way, the largest of them will not exceed a displacement of 4000 tons. In short, the
combined Korean fleet is not a blue-water navy by any means, unable to sail beyond its
coastline for the most part, unable to defend anything like the 1000-nautical mile `lanes
of interest' as stated by the Japanese. Its fleet of Romeo-class submarines have been
judged `ineffective for modern combat' by Jane's Publishers, due to their age and thus
propensity to create excess noise, as they do not possess the anechoic coating of later
models. The quiet 209-type diesel submarines will fare much better, except that their
numbers are lacking (10) at the moment.

Moreover, the lack of C4I will further hamper any attempts to engage enemy
units intruding by air or maritime routes. And furthermore, long-distance operations will
be out of the question for a unified Korean state given the present shortage of viable
rapid-deployment forces, amphibious units, and power projection capability. Last but not
least, without strategic industries (such as aerospace) to speak of, and weapons
acquisition heavily dependent either upon domestic production or single-source
procurement (in case of South Korea) remain a crippling obstacle to any preparations for
future warfare. Also, restrictions such as the 300-km limit on ballistic missiles also stand
in the way of earnest qualitative improvement. Though the range of topics included this
treatise may be broad, but it explained why a general reduction of Korea's armed forces
is NOT a good option for the future, and what should be done to safeguard the interest
and security of this nation in an increasingly dangerous political climate.
C. The Transformation
If a unified Korean force is to engage in modern combat, prepare itself for future
contingencies, defend the maritime lanes, and keep the fires of war from reaching Korea
itself, they will need to follow the following formula. First, Korea should designate a
`strategic zone of military operation', another word for strategic locations crucial to the
defense of home territories. For example, the old Soviet Union had an interest in keeping
the Dardanelles open, as it was the only maritime route that led from its warm water
ports out to major bodies of water. The same goes for the Panama Canal and the US, and
the Straights of Malacca and the East Asian countries. In an age of high-tech, high-speed
combat units, locations such as the ones mentioned above will almost always be at great
distances. Korea being an export economy, meaning much of its commerce are
transported by maritime traffic, it will be vital that she ascertain such key `choke points'
and prepare ahead of time, just as the turn-of-the-century Japanese prime minister
Yamagata Aritomo designated `lanes of interest', meaning maritime routes for Japanese
shipping that the country should defend.

The defense of strategic locations mentioned above, of course, will require a

creation of a blue-water navy, with the ability to interdict enemy forces at sea, or protect
merchantmen faraway from home port. The main security threat for both Koreas were
each other, likely to come across the Cold War frontier known as the DMZ, but Asia's
military `frontier' at Korea's demilitarized zone has moved to the seas: to the East Sea
(Sea of Japan), the Yellow Sea, and East and South China Seas. Korea's mainstay Gearing
and Sumner class vessels were constructed in the mid-1940's, and although they have
been revamped with Westinghouse radars, chaff launchers, and `Goalkeeper' cannons,
they are simply inadequate should operations against Kongo-class cruisers, Luda and
Sovremenyy destroyers, not to mention larger vessels like Peter the Great, come to pass.
Their old hulls will produce much excess noise, and will be sitting ducks against enemy
submarines. Although an aircraft carrier will greatly enhance Korea's naval power, Korea
simply does not have enough vessels to create a carrier battle group, such as missile
cruisers, to protect the floating fortresses. The improvement of the navy, therefore,
should begin with acquisition of missile cruisers able to engage in land, air, and maritime
targets simultaneously.

Needless to say, a unified Korea will be in serious need for long-range strike
capability, either through acquisition of long-range fighters, or ballistic missiles. A
country without long-range forces will be at the mercy of enemy strategic forces in case
of conflict. Should Korea be embroiled in conflict with, for instance, China, Korea's F-16's
and MiG-29's will not have the range to strike China's heartland, while all of Korean
territory will be vulnerable to China's supersonic bombers, or its ballistic missile forces.
Continuation of North Korea's present missile program AFTER unification should be one of
the policies a unified Korea must consider. Strategic forces are formidable because they
give a state the ability to exercise its military power from great distances, and AWAY
from its home territory. Since strategic forces are very expensive to maintain, funds
should be secured with cuts in Korea's enormous ground forces, by remedying the 72 to
28 maintenance-to-investment ratio of the current defense budget (ROK). An army with
560000 soldiers but only 310000 actual combatants is a serious drain on military
resources, because to manage 310000 combat soldiers with an equally numerous
260000 support personnel simply makes no sense.

More ships in the navy, more aircraft in the air force plus maintenance personnel,
in addition to people to man Korea's new strategic forces will necessarily be predicated
upon reduction of ground forces and diversion of manpower to the naval and air forces. A
larger navy and air force will be inevitable given the maritime nature of future conflicts,
and will require an adjustment in the composition of Korea's future forces. Despite facing
the sea on three sides of its territory, much of it continental shelves with considerable
marine resources, the percentage of Korea's naval forces have been low. This is the
natural result of being under the political aegis of a maritime power (US), against
continental forces (USSR, PRC), thus providing the ground forces necessary to hold the
later in check while the former uses its navy to protect Korea's maritime lanes, thus
obviating the need for a large navy.

On the other hand, Cold War rules will not apply in a situation where Korea will
have to fend for itself, and the US no longer willing to provide the same level of
protection. A look around the world reveals a pattern consistent with a particular
country's geography and security interests. For example, the army constitutes less than
half of Britain's armed forces (49%), with the Royal Navy (21.3%) and Air Force (29.7%)
taking up the rest. The naval and air forces constitute 36.8% of the JSDF, and Taiwan's
figure stands at 36%. In contrast, the composition of ROK's armed forces is
overwhelmingly biased towards the army (82.1%), and even more so for the DPRK
(88.7%). Considering Korea's geography and maritime interests, in terms of sea lanes for
its merchantmen and tankers for import of vital petroleum, the 9.5% (ROK) or 4.1%
(DPRK) figure for Koreas' navies is critically inadequate. A more balanced figure,
according to Sejong Institute researchers, is 50%-26%-24% for the army, navy, and air
force, respectively. Given that the Korean peninsula is surrounded by less-than-friendly
neighbors, it must continue to be classified as a `tense' region adjacent to hostile states
(i.e. CIS, Taiwan) after unification, usually keeping 1.39 to 1.78% of its population in
arms. Tabulating from the expected post-unification population of approximately 70
million, it would represent anywhere from 0.98 to 1.26 million, though I would prefer the
latter given all the tension in the region. Therefore, a unified Korean armed forces will be
made up of 630000 in the army, 320000 naval personnel, and 305000 soldiers serving in
the air force.

Peace has never been easy to achieve, and it seems that humanity in various
regions of the world have been at each other's throats for eons. When such visceral
violence mixes up with ideology, tension is sure to reach extreme levels, if Korea, the
French Colonial Wars, Vietnam, Iran-Iraq War, the Soviets in Afghanistan, and the Gulf
War is any indication. However, many in the world saw a chance for peace upon
witnessing the end of the Cold War. And still more rejoiced at all the financial resources
that would no longer be spent in preparation to kill each other, that they would serve
more useful purposes. The above was true in Europe, and in North America, and even the
previously war-torn regions saw a decline in monies spent for arms. However, one region
remained an exception.

The region was East Asia, so culturally diverse there were more differences than
commonalities, and worse, there was enough enmity and hatred to last a millenium, due
to tragedies that occurred throughout its modern history, pitting states of the region
against each other. Of course, such rivalries could not surface with Cold War bipolarity in
full force, but which opened up like a virtual pandora's box when the power of the
hegemons waned. The history being what it was, the states of the region did not trust
each other, although most of that distrust was aimed at a single point (Japan). When
countries do not trust each other, they will not tolerate `being at each other's mercy',
and will attempt to best each other by any means. Moreover, all of the states concerned
were in dominant position in the region at one time or another, and sought to regain the
glories they had lost, mostly by building up their force of arms. Korea. a country that had
once been great but relegated to secondary status in recent times, was caught in the

Korea had the bad luck of occupying a geographical position between a three of
the world's most powerful states: China, Japan, and Russia. Power in the international
stage being what it is, relative, a country that would have been formidable if it was
located elsewhere (i.e. Southeast Asia), suddenly had a high possibility of ending up a
political `punching bag' for the surrounding powers. Unfortunately, there were those
among its population, possessed of incredible naivete, that unification would ensure
peace ad infinitum, and again, money for other social sectors, without taking into
account the dangers rife in the region, the sheer power of its neighbors, and all three
harboring ambitions to maintain or recover the preeminent regional position they had
enjoyed in the past. What's more, these `neighbors' were trying to achieve their goals
not by war of words, but by honing their guns and missiles, and fight a war if necessary.
Korea has been placed in harm's way, and it should realize the region's dangers for what
they are, arm itself to prepare, and keep its guard up.

The way to Korean power is here as follows. First condition for any such effort is
unification; it is impossible for a for Korea to be an earnest regional power when its
population and resources are divided, and so much expenses are wasted in military
competition with EACH OTHER, instead of against other countries in the region. Second,
Korean industry has to desist from an investment to innovation mode, which expedites
technological advancement that can be utilized militarily. Third, Korea should concentrate
its military buildup towards a genuine blue-water navy, which will facilitate its effort at
power projection, and this should include acquisition of an AEGIS-type cruiser and
building a carrier battle group. Fourth its air force should be strengthened for skirmishes
that are not significant enough to warrant the use of ground forces. Fifth, a rapid
deployment force should be built so that Korea can have a regional military role. Last but
not least, we should "watch with alarm the power of our neighbors", especially Japan.
What I have outlined so far is basically a policy of "a rich country, strong army (부국강병)",
which is exactly what Korea should pursue if it seeks to survive in this new environment.