Moreover, China has done nothing, or at least nothing effective, to constrain North Korea’s development of missiles or nuclear weapons. So the US is under no obligation to restrict its ally. If Beijing wants to keep the ROK disarmed, then the former should offer something in return — such as taking effective action against North Korea’s weapons development.
If the PRC is bothered by the prospect of a better-armed South Korea, the former should do more to prevent a better-armed North Korea.
Finally, dropping the limit would help end Seoul’s defense dependence on the US. Arms Control Association executive director Daryl Kimball complained that the ROK did not need longer-range missiles because “these targets in the North can already also be destroyed by the United States.”
Why should the US be expected to do South Korea’s job? The Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and ROK is archaic.
South Korea has raced past North Korea: The former has twice the population, about 40 times the GDP and a vast technological edge. The ROK no longer needs defense welfare from the US, especially since the US is effectively bankrupt.
Lifting missile restrictions should be merely the first step. The US’ nearly 30,000 troops should come home. It is time for South Koreans, not Americans, to pay for the South’s defense.
Washington remains locked in a 1950s mindset in Asia. Today the US defends the ROK while limiting the latter’s ability to defend itself. US policymakers should set South Korea free.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former special assistant to former US president Ronald Reagan.