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PacNet #54 – U.S.-ROK relations: a Joint Vision – and concerns about commitment

After a decade in the wilderness, the return to power of South Korea’s conservative Grand National Party brings with it an increased willingness both to partner with the United States and to participate more fully in shaping the regional (and global) security environment. The new vitality in the U.S.-ROK relationship was evident at the June 16 summit of Presidents Barack Obama and Lee Myung Bak, a meeting that produced a vision statement for the alliance that focused on the future and the challenges that they will tackle together. Ironically, that positive outlook was overshadowed by the document’s mention of the U.S. extended deterrent, which dominated South Korean headlines. As a warning to North Korea, the reference makes some sense. But if, as some suggest, it was needed to assuage South Korean concerns about the U.S. commitment to the ROK’s defense, then all is not as good with the alliance as many want to believe.