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Letter to the editor: President's upcoming Asian trip should include South Korea

Friday, March 21, 2014 - 12:01 am

Recently the Washington Post published an opinion by Richard Armitage and two of his associates expressing concern that President Obama’s upcoming trip to Asia may not include South Korea on his agenda. One of their concerns was that it would pose an embarrassment to South Korea’s President Park Geunn-bye. We want to add another concern that we feel adds to the urgency to include South Korea on his trip agenda.

As Korean War veterans, our concern is that this sets a pattern similar to one that existed just before the start of the Korean War in June 1950. At that time North Korea watched as then-President Harry Truman reduced the level of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. They felt that when this reduction reached a certain level it would enable them to attack South Korea and merge it with North Korea.

While this troop reduction was under way then-Secretary of State Averill Harriman made a speech that figuratively drew a line in the sand indicating we would defend Formosa (now Taiwan), the Philippines and Japan against any attack. Harriman left South Korea out of the equation, and this omission led North Korea’s Kim Il Sun, the grandfather of the current head of North Korea, to believe we were signaling that we would not intervene in South Korea. Of course, he was wrong.

Today we are again sharply reducing troop levels in South Korea. We are concerned that if President Obama doesn’t include South Korea in his upcoming visit that this omission would again be seen as a signal that they were no longer an important part of our defense plan. Of course, our nation knows differently, but the North Korean mentality is dramatically different than ours.

No one can predict the North Korean government’s view of these events or their young, inexperienced, despotic leader’s rationale or actions. There are too many parallels between today and June 1950 to not be concerned. It could be a grave mistake if President Obama snubs South Korea in this next round of visits.

Chapter 133 (The Quiet Warriors) of the Korean War Veterans Association (Fort Wayne) — Kenneth W. Kurtz, commander; Richard H. Loney, vice commander; Wayne Doenges, 2nd vice commander