The Korea Herald


Biden reaffirms commitment to S. Korea’s defense amid Afghan withdrawal

By Choi Si-young

Published : Aug. 20, 2021 - 15:03

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US President Joe Biden. (AP-Yonhap) US President Joe Biden. (AP-Yonhap)
US President Joe Biden said Thursday in the US that his country is committed to the mutual defense treaty with South Korea, noting the situation in South Korea is different from Afghanistan, where the Taliban swiftly took over the government after the withdrawal of US troops.

The US, whose military still has wartime operational control of South Korea’s armed forces, has been pressed over its commitment to collective security as chaos grips Afghanistan.

“We are in a situation where they are in -- entities we’ve made agreements with based on not a civil war they’re having on that island or in South Korea, but on an agreement where they have a unity government that, in fact, is trying to keep bad guys from doing bad things to them,” Biden said in an ABC interview, referring to Taiwan alongside Korea.

And the US will respond to any attack on its Asian allies including South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, Biden said, referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s mutual defense doctrine. NATO is a 30-nation military alliance that includes the US, Canada and 28 European countries.

Earlier this week, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration is not seeking to reduce American troops in South Korea, describing its commitment to the alliance as sacrosanct.

But Sullivan hardly dampened speculation here over a troop drawdown, with the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea calling on the government to take initiative in taking over wartime operational control of its troops from the US.

“The Afghan withdrawal is an opportunity for us to reclaim our wartime role,” Rep. Song Young-gil said. The Moon Jae-in administration had promised to complete the transfer by next year, but it is not expected to achieve the goal because the two allies have missed too many joint military drills to test Seoul’s readiness.

Song, who underscored the importance of the alliance, said the transfer should take place as quickly as possible for South Korea to manage its independent armed forces.

South Korea is a military and economic power, whereas Afghanistan has an incompetent, corrupt government, Song said, describing a comparison between the two as slanderous.