An America First Korea Policy
What would be an America First Korean policy?
The U.S. would give Seoul notice that we will, by a date certain, be dissolving our mutual security treaty and restoring our full freedom to decide whether or not to fight in a new Korean War.
Given the present risk of war, possibly involving nuclear weapons, it is absurd that we should be obligated to fight what Mattis says would be a “catastrophic” war, because of a treaty negotiated six decades ago by Eisenhower and Dulles.
“The commonest error in politics,” Lord Salisbury reminded us, “is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.”
But we should also tell South Korea that if she desires a nuclear deterrent against an attack by the North, she should build it.
Americans should not risk a nuclear war, 8,000 miles away, to defend a South Korea that has 40 times the economy of the North and twice the population.
No vital U.S. interest requires us, in perpetuity, to be willing to go to war to defend South Korea, especially if that war entails the risk of a nuclear attack on U.S. troops or the American homeland.
If the United States did not have a mutual security pact that obligates us to defend South Korea against a nuclear-armed North, would President Trump be seeking to negotiate such a treaty?
The question answers itself.
Trump positively thrilled the old neo-Confederate, Pat Buchanan, when he repeatedly suggested exactly this policy during the campaign.
And he may have made for himself excuses for backing away from the Korean alliance when, during his welcome speech for President Moon Jae-in, he appeared to make the US commitment conditional on South Korea paying more of the costs and effectively causing some pretty radical changes in the state of economic relations between that country and the US.
Despite the alarming bellicosity of his language during the same speech.
The old Klansman is right that a Korean War II would be a disaster for America and, even more, for South Korea and its people.
But dropping the alliance and urging the South Koreans to get their own nukes only increases the danger in the region.
I have suggested before that Xi might well be receptive to suggestions that the US would be pleased if China got rid of the Kims in North Korea, themselves, and replaced their regime with another more like China's own, with no nuclear aspirations, and allied with China.