Experts Recommend South Korea and US Sign a Defense Agreement to Deter China and North Korea

South Korea maintains strong relations with the United States and is strengthening its defenses as a precaution against the nuclear threat posed by its neighbor North Korea. Military experts see value in these precautionary steps but suggest the more reliable approach to deterring both North Korea and China would be for South Korea to sign a formal alliance with the United States.During a summit meeting in May, South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden met to explore new avenues of cooperation, expanding the security and economic alliance between the two countries into a comprehensive global alliance that includes technology and supply chains. The talks focused on strengthening global security, improving supply chains, and sharing the latest technology, including chips, batteries, core minerals, quantum technology, biotechnology, energy, and space. The talks also addressed the importance of deterring the ongoing threats posed by North Korean President, Kim Jong-un. Representatives for the United States reaffirmed their commitment to South Korea and both countries agreed on the merits of conducting joint military exercises. If required, the United States would also make its strategic weapons available to South Korea. While the meeting did not result in a formal alliance, both countries agreed to further explore the signing of a Korea-U.S. Reciprocal Defense Procurement (RDP) agreement. The RDP is a memorandum of understanding used by the U.S. Department of Defense and its allied nations to strengthen relations and supply chains, and to expedite the joint manufacture of defense equipment. As such, the RDP mitigates trade barriers to the mutual procurement of products for export by the signing nations. Since the late 1980s, the United States has encouraged Korea to join them in signing an RDP. Korea however, has remained steadfast in rejecting this idea. While the Koreans acknowledge there is value in having greater access to U.S. markets, they fear opening their markets to the U.S. could be problematic. Korea’s limited technology, smaller manufacturers, and product pricing are not on the same level as those in the United States. Today, Korea’s concerns about an RDP with the United States. are not as great as their concerns about North Korea and China. In speaking with The Epoch Times, Chae Woo-Seok, President of Korea’s Association of Defense Industry Studies, said if an RDP is signed, there will be “no big blow” since most of Korea’s weapons are already imported from the United States. He said by signing with the United States and entering the world’s largest military market, “Korea would benefit even more.” Chae explained that if Korea and the United States were joined by a defense industry supply network, the alliance between the two countries would be strengthened. Not only would an RDP improve Korea’s national defense and security it presents an opportunity for defense manufacturers to boost their revenues and production rates. Chae said that Korea’s defense industry has a trade deficit with the United States because of its lagging technology, and the remedy to address this is an RDP. The joint research and development enabled by the agreement would help revitalize Korea’s defense industry and national security. He believes the RDP would function as an export bridge between Korea’s defense industry and developed countries, particularly the United States. According to Chae, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has weaponized the monopolistic structure it built for its  economic benefit using government subsidies and labor costs. As a countermeasure, it would be wise for Korea and the U.S. to establish an alliance. “Through the Korea-U.S. defense alliance, we can ensure containment not only against North Korea but also against China (the CCP),” he said. Korea’s Defense Industry Grows and Exports Soar According to a triennial report published in late 2021 by Korea’s Research Institute for Defense Technology, the country’s defense industry has demonstrated considerable growth in recent years. Titled, “Defense Science & Technology Level Assessment by Country,” the report says Korea’s defense spending totaled $45.7 billion in 2020, a 41 percent increase since 2011. During the period 2016 through 2020, Korean arms exports rose 210 percent year-on-year, ranking 9th in the world. This accounted for 2.7 percent of all global arms exports, an increase of 649 percent over 2005. Korea’s Defense Agency (KDA) also confirmed that from 2010 to 2020, the country’s defense exports remained at about $3 billion per year. Then, in 2021 Korean arms exports reached $7 billion, exceeding the total imports for the first time. The launch of the medium-range ground-to-air interceptor missile “Skybow 2” that was developed using Korean technology. (Provided by the Korea Defense Agency) According to Chae Woo-Seok, the Korean defense industry’s “greatest competitiveness lies in price/performance rati

Experts Recommend South Korea and US Sign a Defense Agreement to Deter China and North Korea

South Korea maintains strong relations with the United States and is strengthening its defenses as a precaution against the nuclear threat posed by its neighbor North Korea. Military experts see value in these precautionary steps but suggest the more reliable approach to deterring both North Korea and China would be for South Korea to sign a formal alliance with the United States.

During a summit meeting in May, South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden met to explore new avenues of cooperation, expanding the security and economic alliance between the two countries into a comprehensive global alliance that includes technology and supply chains. The talks focused on strengthening global security, improving supply chains, and sharing the latest technology, including chips, batteries, core minerals, quantum technology, biotechnology, energy, and space.

The talks also addressed the importance of deterring the ongoing threats posed by North Korean President, Kim Jong-un. Representatives for the United States reaffirmed their commitment to South Korea and both countries agreed on the merits of conducting joint military exercises. If required, the United States would also make its strategic weapons available to South Korea.

While the meeting did not result in a formal alliance, both countries agreed to further explore the signing of a Korea-U.S. Reciprocal Defense Procurement (RDP) agreement. The RDP is a memorandum of understanding used by the U.S. Department of Defense and its allied nations to strengthen relations and supply chains, and to expedite the joint manufacture of defense equipment. As such, the RDP mitigates trade barriers to the mutual procurement of products for export by the signing nations.

Since the late 1980s, the United States has encouraged Korea to join them in signing an RDP. Korea however, has remained steadfast in rejecting this idea. While the Koreans acknowledge there is value in having greater access to U.S. markets, they fear opening their markets to the U.S. could be problematic. Korea’s limited technology, smaller manufacturers, and product pricing are not on the same level as those in the United States.

Today, Korea’s concerns about an RDP with the United States. are not as great as their concerns about North Korea and China. In speaking with The Epoch Times, Chae Woo-Seok, President of Korea’s Association of Defense Industry Studies, said if an RDP is signed, there will be “no big blow” since most of Korea’s weapons are already imported from the United States. He said by signing with the United States and entering the world’s largest military market, “Korea would benefit even more.”

Chae explained that if Korea and the United States were joined by a defense industry supply network, the alliance between the two countries would be strengthened. Not only would an RDP improve Korea’s national defense and security it presents an opportunity for defense manufacturers to boost their revenues and production rates.

Chae said that Korea’s defense industry has a trade deficit with the United States because of its lagging technology, and the remedy to address this is an RDP. The joint research and development enabled by the agreement would help revitalize Korea’s defense industry and national security. He believes the RDP would function as an export bridge between Korea’s defense industry and developed countries, particularly the United States.

According to Chae, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has weaponized the monopolistic structure it built for its  economic benefit using government subsidies and labor costs. As a countermeasure, it would be wise for Korea and the U.S. to establish an alliance. “Through the Korea-U.S. defense alliance, we can ensure containment not only against North Korea but also against China (the CCP),” he said.

Korea’s Defense Industry Grows and Exports Soar

According to a triennial report published in late 2021 by Korea’s Research Institute for Defense Technology, the country’s defense industry has demonstrated considerable growth in recent years. Titled, “Defense Science & Technology Level Assessment by Country,” the report says Korea’s defense spending totaled $45.7 billion in 2020, a 41 percent increase since 2011.

During the period 2016 through 2020, Korean arms exports rose 210 percent year-on-year, ranking 9th in the world. This accounted for 2.7 percent of all global arms exports, an increase of 649 percent over 2005.

Korea’s Defense Agency (KDA) also confirmed that from 2010 to 2020, the country’s defense exports remained at about $3 billion per year. Then, in 2021 Korean arms exports reached $7 billion, exceeding the total imports for the first time.

Epoch Times Photo
The launch of the medium-range ground-to-air interceptor missile “Skybow 2” that was developed using Korean technology. (Provided by the Korea Defense Agency)

According to Chae Woo-Seok, the Korean defense industry’s “greatest competitiveness lies in price/performance ratio and after-sales service.” He expects future export prospects will be “very bright as well.”

Korea and US to Jointly Build Space and Missile Networks

The day after North Korea’s provocative launch of eight short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on June 5, South Korea and the United States launched a total of eight long-range guided missiles, the Army Tactical Ballistic Missiles (ATACMS).

Chae suggested this recent incident provided the justification necessary to proceed with the South Korean-U.S. alliance. He said integrating South Korea’s low-altitude defense system with the U.S. high-altitude defense system would “create a complete missile defense system.”

Because North Korea’s missiles are becoming more advanced, Chae said South Korea should further develop its air defense assets, introduce advanced command and control systems, and upgrade to a space and missile defense system.

South Korea plans to expand its deployment of Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) missiles and is further developing its intermediate precision-guided missiles with a range covering Beijing. Although Beijing is likely to object, Chae believes Korea has the right to take these steps since the CCP has missiles capable of reaching Seoul. He said, “The CCP’s pressure will not impede the defense rights of independent states.”

Lee Yun Jeong Contributed to the article.


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Lisa Bian is a Korea-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on Korean society, its culture, and international relations.