America's Retreat from Asia

The United States' planned withdrawal of troops from Asia, which President George W. Bush announced on August 16, need not harm peace and stability in the region and particularly in Korea. But a key condition for a smooth redeployment of US troops is close consultations by America with its allies, something it has not done well up to now.

South Korea and Japan need to have their views taken into serious account if this now inevitable withdrawal is to succeed. By contrast, unilaterally announcing the withdrawal - and then unilaterally implementing it - may harm the very purpose that the remaining US troops in Asia are intended to serve: assuring deterrence, stability, and nonproliferation in Korea and Asia.

The withdrawal plan is causing countless worries. In Japan, there are concerns that it will make the country America's frontline command post in Asia, possibly beyond the scope of its bilateral security treaty with the US. One result is that China feels nervous about the implications of any expansion of the American-Japanese military partnership.

But the impact of America's planned troop withdrawals is felt most keenly in South Korea. In June, the Bush administration revealed its plan to withdraw some 12,500 of the 37,000 US soldiers stationed in South Korea by the end of 2005. These include 3,600 troops from the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, who are already earmarked for redeployment in Iraq.