By: Barry Pavel
What is the kernel of the issue?
The scope of the US-Republic of Korea military alliance, borne at the height of the Cold War in the 20th century, needs to be broadened as both nations begin to emerge from the depths of their struggles against COVID and face expansive new opportunities and challenges.
Why is the issue important?
For the remainder of the 2020s and into the 2030s, the US and ROK face significant challenges (including pandemics and the broad set of challenges posed by the continuing rise of China) for which their military capabilities are necessary but not sufficient. Effectively countering the coronavirus and preparing for future pandemics, as well as working together to address the rise of China, are far from military-only challenges, yet the Alliance has a defined, military set of missions. If the scope of the alliance is not broadened, it risks losing public support in both countries as the foundation for addressing the foremost national security threats that they face.
What is the recommendation?
The Biden administration should work closely with the Moon administration to develop a new, broader national security concept to anchor the bilateral alliance going forward. Only through an integrated orchestration of different national tools—combined with the same from allies—harnessed by a coherent, comprehensive, long-term strategy, can a broad-based, sustained challenge of the magnitude and breadth of that posed by China and of repeated pandemics be handled skillfully and, ultimately, successfully.