Korean Unification and the Future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance

By David F. Helvey Strategic Forum 291

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Feb. 1, 2016 — DOWNLOAD PDF


Key Points

  • Unification of the Korean Peninsula would remove the primary threat that has animated the U.S.–Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance for over 60 years, but it need not require termination of the alliance. 
  • An alliance between the United States and a unified Korea would, at a macro level, reinforce the international liberal democratic order. At a micro level, it could help ensure security on the Korean Peninsula during the process of integrating the North, assist in the defense of Korea, and serve as a platform for multilateral security cooperation. 
  • A future alliance should be a part of planning for Korean unification and should consider the purpose of the alliance, its roles and missions, coordinating structures, and presence (if any) of U.S. troops. It should also include diplomatic efforts to assure China, Russia, and Japan that a future alliance would respect sovereignty and support stability. 
  • A reconfigured alliance should reflect greater equality between the United States and a unified Korea to ensure its political sustainability in both capitals. Planning for a future alliance must not erode the critical functions of deterrence that the alliance performs today
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