Courtesy Reuters

The Ripple Effect in Korea

I believe it will be possible to withdraw our ground forces from South Korea on a phased basis over a time span to be determined after consultation with both South Korea and Japan. At the same time, it should be made clear to the South Korean government that its internal oppression is repugnant to our people and undermines the support for our commitment there.

- Jimmy Carter, June 23, 1976

When President Carter made this statement, he was still very much a candidate. He repeated it in the course of his campaign and had obviously given it a great deal of thought. Early this spring, after informing (if not quite "consulting") the governments of South Korea and Japan, he announced the phased withdrawal as one of the first major foreign policy moves in his Administration.

On its face the withdrawal is a prudent one. It will be staged over a five-year period for the laudable purpose of getting American troops out of an exposed overseas position. Given the general and persisting American disenchantment after Vietnam, a pullout from Korea would seem logical and necessary. After 30 years of American troops manning its borders, one might say, it is time for a nation to start defending itself. President Park Chung Hee's government, in addition, is objectionable to most Americans. Park has crudely abused the freedoms of many Koreans and persecuted and jailed leaders of the political opposition. Of late his regime's monumentally ham-handed attempts to win friends and influence Congressmen in Washington have had wide notoriety in the American press. So a pullout of troops, well-advertised, should be a good warning to him and his men.

At that, the troops to be withdrawn are only the 27,000 combat soldiers of the Second Infantry Division. Air Force and logistics units will remain. The armed forces of the Republic of Korea, 625,000 strong, are generally competent and well trained, larger than the communist armies of Kim Il Sung, the North Korean dictator, which oppose them on the truce-line border. If

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